24 May 2012

The Casino Regulatory Authority Workplan Seminar 2012 at the Fusionopolis, Genexis Theatre - Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Minister in Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry

Chairman CRA, Board Members,
Distinguished Guests,
CRA Officers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Good morning,
 
Staying Ahead In The Game
 
Introduction
 
It has been two years since the advent of the Integrated Resorts in Singapore. It has been a steep learning curve and CRA has gained much by way of practical experience, and grown as an effective regulator.
 
A Steady Journey
 
2.         CRA has a challenging remit - to maintain a strict regulatory regime that deters criminal elements and protects the integrity of gaming, while being mindful of the social context and commercial environment. Striking the right balance is an integral part of CRA’s mandate.  
 
3.         We are new to this domain and much of CRA’s work is behind the scenes. Yet, Singapore’s casino regulation regime has been quietly winning international recognition, within this relatively short space of time.  It was evident during my recent visits to Australia and the US that established gaming regulators, many with decades of experience, held CRA’s work in high regard.  Regulators from Korea, Japan and Vietnam have visited Singapore and CRA to learn more about our casino regulatory regime, and our measures to keep crime at bay. This is a tribute to the team at CRA and speaks of the trust and international credibility that you have built up.
 
4.         CRA has drawn on best practices from overseas while formulating regulations and practices that are unique to our domestic environment.  Take for example the International Market Agents (IMA) regime.  Singapore’s IMA regime is designed to facilitate legitimate marketing activities aimed at foreign high rollers, while mitigating the risks to law and order and social downsides for a safe Singapore.  Our IMA regime, with its stringent regulations and robust probity checks, is a clear signal that CRA is serious about keeping, in the parlance of the industry, junket operations clean and maintaining the integrity of the market.  
 
5.         CRA has also developed strong technical expertise in gaming regulation.  The agency has developed a total of 8 technical standards and 8 technical notices for regulating some 4,900 [1] Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs), over 400 [2] types of game titles and 80 [3] types of gaming equipment in the casinos.  
 
 
Challenges Ahead
 
6.         CRA has come very far in a relatively short time, and can justifiably take pride in the advances it has made. However, these are early days yet, and there will be challenges that lie ahead as our environment changes.  CRA has to stay ahead of the curve, be well aware of industry developments, and continually ensure its technical standardsare relevant and pragmatic to maintain a high level of gaming integrity.  
 
7.         The first aspect of this challenge is our operating environment. Hitherto, our casino regulation has taken place against the backdrop of a relatively benign economic climate.  The rapid rise of Asia, together with the paucity of competition in the region, allowed us to focus resolutely on establishing a robust regulatory regime.  But, competition will intensify, and there is the real prospect of an economic slowdown in Asia, coupled with the economic and political uncertainty in Europe.   The incidents and impact of transnational crime may also increase in an adverse economic climate. Amidst such volatility, our regulatory regime must be singularly focused on its core mission and remain effective.
 
8.         Second, the casino and gaming environment is increasing in complexity. Gaming is becoming more integrated and across multiple platforms.  These include casino gaming, online gaming and even gaming on social media platforms.  CRA must monitor these developments closely and stay abreast of them.
 
9.         Finally, a sound and robust casino regulatory framework is necessary but not sufficient.  Our various government agencies must continue to work closely together, and coordinate their policies, to ensure that Singapore continues to reap the anticipated economic benefits from the two integrated resorts while carefully addressing concerns about crime and social impact. This work cuts across several agencies’ jurisdictions and requires a Whole-of-Government effort, where CRA plays a central and critical role.
 
10.       Therefore, the theme for CRA’s Workplan Seminar, ‘Deepening Expertise, Developing People is apposite for it aptly sets the context as CRA continues its journey as a trusted regulator.
 
DIVERSE Expertise
 
11.       Casino regulation is a niche area requiring specific skill sets.  CRA has built up specialist teams responsible for gaming technology, audit, inspection and compliance, and professional capabilities in the legal field.  The challenge is to continue to attract good people with the right skill sets, passion to serve and, most importantly, integrity.   It is equally important that CRA continues to invest in your people and develop your officers to deal with the varied challenges in this domain.  
 
12.       To this end, CRA recently conducted a review of the human resource schemes and salaries to ensure that employment terms remain competitive and commensurate with the specialised skills of your officers. The details of the revised scheme are being finalized and the revisions are slated for implementation in the third quarter this year.
 
13.       Officers are also given many opportunities to upgrade their skills through professional development courses and attachments with overseas gaming regulators such as Australia and Nevada.  And, these initiatives must continue as part of CRA’s ongoing efforts to build institutional capacity.
 
14.       I also note CRA’s collaborations, both within and beyond our shores.  As a member of the Home Team, CRA has access to a wide array of tools and capabilities in areas such as investigation techniques and forensics.  It is, therefore, essential that CRA and the Police work closely together to fight casino crime.  The recent 2nd Singapore Symposium on Casino Regulation & Crime, jointly organised by CRA and the Criminal Investigation Department, provided an excellent opportunity for both the Police and CRA to learn from experts on the latest trends in casino regulation, and challenges in enforcement.
 
15.       Internationally, we are well regarded by our peers. CRA has received several invitations to meet with international counterparts, to exchange views and information, and discuss policy issues related to gaming regulation.  The International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR) is one such platform.  IAGR comprises casino and gaming regulators from Europe, the US, Australia, South Africa and Asia, and its aim is to advance the efficacy and efficiency of gaming regulation throughout the world.  
 
16.       Singapore has been chosen to host the 2012 Conference of the IAGR, from 21 to 24 October.  CRA is the first Asian regulator that has been invited to host this conference.   It is also noteworthy that Singapore is the only Asian jurisdiction represented on the IAGR Board of Trustees, which is testament to the high regard that international regulators have for CRA and the work that is done here.   
 
17.       This conference also affords us an excellent opportunity to share other aspects of Singapore’s regime, for example in the areas of responsible gambling, and money laundering prevention measures.
 
18.       Internationally, we are also gaining a strong reputation in the area of social safeguards.  Academics and experts have commended the efforts of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) in providing options for individuals and families to protect themselves and their family members from the problems associated with casino gambling.  The casino entry levy regime is the first of its kind. It is apparent to many, including industry players, that Singapore has managed to develop a strong social safeguards regime, and that we take that regime seriously.  
 
19.       Therefore, in conjunction with the IAGR 2012 Conference, NCPG will hold its third NCPG Conference on Problem Gambling.  This year, NCPG’s focus will be on harm consequences for families facing gambling problems.  It will be an important complement to the various other aspects of problem gambling issues raised at previous NCPG conferences, including problem gambling among the youths, treatment and intervention measures.
 
20.       Such internal and external collaborations and partnerships will allow CRA to better understand the dynamics of the gaming industry and be well attuned to its development.  
 
Growing new capabilities
 
21.       One other important aspect in CRA’s evolution is technology – which is evolving rapidly. CRA must have a firm understanding of how technology is shaping and re-shaping the industry, and, in turn, leverage on technology to be a better regulator.
 
22.       Over the next 3 to 5 years, CRA will continue to invest in technology platforms to strengthen its operational efficiency.  CRA’s IT systems have been recognized as being of international standards, having obtained ISO 9001 and ISO 27000 certification.  This will help to assure stakeholders of the robustness and integrity of CRA’s internal operating systems and processes.  In short, these investments will allow CRA to be a better regulator.
 
23.       CRA must also strive to uphold gaming integrity, in particular by building technical forensic investigation capabilities against counterfeits and gaming equipment fraud.  In addition, CRA will be enhancing its research capabilities in studying the evolution of new gaming equipment and gaming technology alongside other casino regulators.
 
Conclusion
 
24.       CRA has come a long way over the past two years and has proven itself to be equal to the task of meeting various  challenges head on through robust, calibrated, and well-considered regulations.  With the benefit of this experience, and the capabilities you continue to develop, I am confident that CRA will grow from strength to strength as a trusted regulator who will keep Singapore safe and secure.  I wish you a fruitful Workplan Seminar.
 
Thank you.


[1] Refers to 4,900 units of slot machines/EGMs and betting terminals of ETGs.
[2] Examples of EGM game titles are slot games ‘Fa Fa Fa’ and ‘Sex and the City’. Examples of ETG game titles are electronic Baccarat, Sic Bo and Roulette games.
[3] Examples of gaming equipment are card shoes, gaming chips and playing cards used at the casinos.
Last Updated on 11 Jun 2015
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