Published: 29 August 2019
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Welcome to the 5th Singapore Symposium on Gambling Regulation and Crime. This symposium is a platform for gambling regulators and enforcement agencies to network and learn from each other. The CEO of the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) has talked about this in the video that was just played.
2. The symposium has evolved through the years, starting in 2009 as an internal training forum between the CRA and the Casino Crime Investigation Branch (CCIB) of the Singapore Police Force (SPF). It later included international participants, but this is still the first year that we have expanded the scope of coverage beyond casino regulation.
The Changing Gambling Landscape
3. In recent years, we have seen many changes in the gambling scene. Globally, many jurisdictions have enacted new laws to tackle the rise of online gambling. For example, Switzerland now has a law to block foreign-based gambling sites, and only allow online betting with Swiss casinos and lotteries. In Asia, more countries have legalised casino operations. Myanmar is one example. Japan has “integrated resorts” like Singapore, and plans to issue three casino licences.
4.In Singapore, our gambling landscape has also evolved. Singapore Pools, the operator for lotteries and sports betting, has been allowed to run an online service. The exclusivity period for our two integrated resorts, or IRs, has been extended to the end of the next decade - which is end-2030. The package of enhancements will see the IRs investing another SGD9 billion.
5. There are two key challenges that regulators are grappling with.
6. First, how to deal with changes brought about by online technology. Everyone now has a smart phone with mobile broadband access. From their smart phones, punters can access gambling products anywhere, anytime. Across the world, online gambling has been on the rise. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), global remote gambling revenue has grown ten per cent annually from 2009 to 2016, almost doubling the revenue to USD39 billion.
7. We have also seen the rise in Singapore. About 60% of Singapore Pools’ sports betting turnover is now done through remote channels, compared to about 30 per cent just three years ago. We expect this trend to continue. According to market researchers, the Asia-Pacific online gambling market is projected to expand at double-digit rates annually up to the middle of the next decade. The market size of Asia-Pacific online gambling will grow almost threefold, more than the rest of the world. So that is the first set of challenges.
8. Second, preferences have changed. In particular, the younger generation is less interested in traditional gambling products such as jackpot machines and horse-racing. Unsurprisingly, novel products are being developed to appeal to them.
9. Regulators around the world will need to figure out how to regulate these new products. Some have morphed to resemble computer gaming products, and appear to be skills-based –the line is quite blur. For example, traditional slot machines add in a joystick or other features that allow patrons to make choices during the game. Conversely, computer and mobile gaming products have incorporated elements of gambling. One example is loot boxes, which are randomised in-game bundles, that gamers can purchase. The pay-out of the loot box is assigned by chance, and can include in-demand top prizes such as powerful weapons or skins that enhance the game experience. Some of us who are not so familiar with the digital world, still struggle with what the joy and the excitement is with these virtual prizes. But for the people who are involved in the game and are vested in it, this certainly engages their attention to a rather distinct degree.
10. Such new products across various modes of gambling or gaming will certainly require us to put on our thinking hats, and probably take a look at the new laws that we need to put in place to regulate. Regulators and law enforcement agencies need to keep up to date with these developments and make sure our policies and rules remain effective.
Strengthening International Partnerships
11. This changing gambling landscape makes it even more important for gambling regulators to learn from one another. Over the years, Singapore has benefited tremendously from the sharing by established casino regulators. In 2006, we had an urgent need to learn from the international community of regulators. Mr Raja Kumar, CRA’s first Chief Executive, made a cold call to Mr David Ford, who was then the Chairman of the International Association of Gaming Regulators or IAGR. The IAGR community welcomed Singapore, which was then really completely new as a jurisdiction for casinos, and brought us into the fold. In 2011, to further training opportunities for our CRA officers, CRA signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the Nevada Gaming Control Board, or NGCB, and the Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation. CRA officers have also conducted study trips to well-regarded casino regulators in countries such as Australia and the United States.
12. We have in turn shared our experiences and regulatory approach with other regulators. At the IAGR conference last year, CRA shared Singapore’s experiences and insights on regulatory dilemmas and the effectiveness of sanctions imposed on licensees. Over the years, CRA’s Chief Executives have served on the IAGR’s Board of Trustees.
13. We are pleased that many of our international partners are able to join us at the Symposium today. Thank you very much for helping Singapore. We look forward to continuing our partnerships with you.
14. Looking ahead, there are two key areas that I believe we can continue to learn from each another.
15. First, how we can improve responsible gambling. Responsible gambling is critical to mitigate the risk of problem gambling. Regulators across the world have introduced measures to improve responsible gambling. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has designed and implemented innovative initiatives aimed at encouraging informed player choice. This includes the GameSense Information Centres staffed by GameSense advisors who inform patrons on how the games work and support patrons in adopting healthy gambling habits. They also have the “PlayMyWay” tool which allows patrons to set their gambling budget. The Responsible Gambling Council in Ontario delivers innovative awareness and information programmes using social media. Their social marketing campaigns, “Isolation” and “Isolation Phase 2”, reach out to not only problem gamblers, but also people who might be affected by their loved one’s gambling habits.
16. In Singapore, there are also several efforts on responsible gambling. For example, the Responsible Gambling Forum, which comprises industry and community leaders, organises events such as the annual Responsible Gambling Awareness Week to raise awareness.
17. We also engage gambling operators to implement responsible gambling measures. For example, for online gambling with Singapore Pools, individuals are required to set their expenditure and loss limits, to help them manage the financial impact of gambling. We are also working closely with the casinos in Singapore to implement measures to help patrons make informed decisions about gambling. Some measures being studied include providing patrons with notifications on amount and time spent in the casinos, and encouraging patrons to voluntarily set caps on expenditure and duration of play.
Second, besides responsible gambling, we can learn from one another on how to address law and order concerns, especially money laundering and terrorism financing. World-wide, regulators have put in place strict controls to manage the law and order concerns related to gambling operations, to prevent infiltration of criminal elements. But more can, and needs be done.
18. Some regulators have made better use of data. For example, the French Online Gaming Regulatory Authority who is, I believe, also here with us today, uses data to detect money laundering, match fixing, and to study players’ behaviours. CRA is also exploring how data analytics can be used to gain insights on the risk profiles of patrons and identify characteristics of patrons who pose regulatory risks. Such insights can be used to support policy development and enhance CRA’s risk management.
19. In short, there is much to discuss and learn from fellow regulators at this year’s symposium.
20. It goes without saying, that I wish you a fruitful symposium, and may it also be a platform for all of us to strengthen existing friendships and make new ones. Thank you.