Published: 16 August 2022
Mr. Tan Tee How, Chairman, GRA
Mr. Teo Chun Ching, Chief Executive, GRA
Members of the Board
Officers of the GRA
Colleagues and friends
1. Thank you for inviting me to join the inauguration of the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Singapore (GRA), and of course, this is also your first workplan seminar.
Journey Towards the Formation of GRA
2. First, I would like to congratulate everyone here today, on successfully setting up GRA. You have worked hard over the last few years towards this occasion, and today’s inauguration is a milestone worth celebrating. Well done!
3. As the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Tan Tee How, shared in his speech earlier, the establishment of GRA is a new chapter for gambling regulation in Singapore, but GRA itself has 14 plus years of experience in doing so. GRA is reconstituted from an existing authority – the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA). The CRA itself was established in 2008, as the successor to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)’s Casino Regulation Division.
4. Indeed, the journey leading us to the establishment of the GRA has been a fairly long one. And it would be fitting to look back at how far we have come.
5. Back in 2005, the Government decided to set up two Integrated Resorts (IRs) with casinos. Many of us here will still recall the extensive debates that took place, both in Parliament and in the public sphere. It was a hotly debated subject.
(a) It was also a very important decision for Singapore, given our broader strategy to be a global and vibrant city. The introduction of the IRs would boost tourism and create more job opportunities for Singaporeans.
(b) At the same time, we were very mindful of the harms that could arise from casino gambling. There was a very strong need to develop a robust regulatory regime to prevent these harms from taking root in Singapore. Also, to inspire in Singaporeans the confidence that we could take this step forward without causing our society great harm.
6. We were definitely in uncharted territory. No one in Singapore knew how to regulate casinos and however they were regulated elsewhere in the world did not quite fit our requirements. We had to build up our own expertise and learn very quickly. Develop our own model, our own ethos, our own philosophy with our own methods.
7. To do so, MHA set up in what we call headquarters (HQ), the Casino Regulation Division (CRD) in 2005. The CRD was the pioneering team that laid the foundations of our casino regulatory framework, before the establishment of the CRA.
8. The key tenets of today’s casino regulatory regime can be traced back to the foundations laid by the CRD:
(a) It is a regulatory regime that is robust and comprehensive, but also pragmatic, to manage a complex and dynamic industry.
(b) At the same time, it is strict and firm, to ensure that criminal activities and casino gambling-related harms do not take root in Singapore.
9. I am happy to note that among the GRA officers present today, there are eleven who were part of the pioneering team in the CRD.
10. Since taking up the mantle of Singapore’s casino regulator in 2008, the CRA has done well.
(a) Casino-related crime remains very low, well under 1% of overall crime.
(b) Our regulatory engagement with the casino operators is anchored on mutual benefit and understanding. Our casino operators appreciate the spirit, intent, and reasons for our regulations, and have a good track record in compliance.
(c) With the support of the Ministry of Social and Family Development, and the National Council on Problem Gambling, casino-related problem-gambling is under control.
(d) The CRA has also worked hand in hand with our economic agencies, such as the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Singapore Tourism Board, and the Sentosa Development Corporation, to ensure that even as we regulate tightly, the IRs can continue to be world-class destinations that would attract large numbers of foreign visitors, and provide good economic opportunities for Singaporeans.
11. This is why CRA has a very high standing in the international community of gambling regulators. Because they see the results, they see what has happened since it was set up, they look at the environment that we have supporting the IRs, they know the kind of punters, the visitors that these very differentiated products attract, and they see that this is something worth replicating.
(a) In 2012, we became the first regulator in the Asia-Pacific to host delegates from the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR), a forum where regulators from around the world gather to exchange insights on developments in the regulatory space.
(b) In 2013, our former Chief Executive, Mr. Lau Peet Meng, was appointed as the IAGR’s president. This was very significant because when you think about Singapore as a market for gambling, for casinos, and the fact that the CE of our gambling regulator is asked to lead this international body. It was a recognition of, and testimony to, the respect for CRA’s accomplishments and capabilities, even as a relatively young regulator, CRA was able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with leading foreign counterparts.
12. Looking back, we have much to be proud of and so, to all past and present CRA officers – congratulations on an outstanding job.
Formation of GRA a Timely and Important Step in Gambling Regulation
13. The formation of GRA is an important next step for gambling regulation in Singapore. There are several reasons for this.
(a) First, technology has significantly altered the gambling landscape, it has changed how people gamble. It is now easier to gamble anytime, anywhere, with people around the world, anyone. Demand for remote gambling has risen. Technology will continue to further enlarge the scale and scope of online gambling.
(b) Second, changing consumer preferences have given rise to new gambling products. It’s quite difficult to keep up with all of the innovations. The boundaries between gambling and gaming have blurred. There are more and more variants of gaming, gambling, and games of chance, such as those involving cryptocurrencies or using crypto technology.
14. The gambling landscape within the next five years will be very different from what it is today and we have to get ready for that future.
15. GRA consolidates our regulatory frameworks and expertise within a single agency in order that we can address the challenges holistically, bringing to bear all of the experience and expertise that we have at our disposal. It takes a holistic approach to gambling regulation, encompassing all gambling products and activities in Singapore. There is no question who is supposed to look into it, it has been clearly identified, and so we focus our attention on what best to do in response. This will enable the Government to be more effective and agile in navigating this changing landscape, a point that Chairman also made earlier in his speech.
16. But while the formation of GRA puts us on a better footing for the future, it is really only the start.
(a) GRA must keep abreast of global trends, monitor industry developments, and study how they will affect the gambling landscape.
(b) GRA must also continually search for better solutions to new and even existing challenges.
17. We must continually review our legal frameworks.
(a) Earlier this year, Parliament passed the Gambling Control Act, which among others, sought to future-proof the legislative framework for non-casino gambling.
(b) MHA will next have to review the Casino Control Act, to refresh and enhance the casino regulatory regime.
Our People and Our Partners Have Made Our Achievements Possible
18. Here, I would like to pay special tribute to our leaders, our people and partners, without whom our achievements would not have been possible.
(a) The CRA’s first Chairman, the late Mr. Richard Magnus, laid the foundations for a firm and fair casino regulatory framework. He would have been proud of how far CRA has come and now morphed into the GRA.
(b) Our second Chairman, we’re fortunate that he’s able to join us today, Mr. Lee Tzu Yang. He spearheaded CRA’s digital transformation. This was also very significant.
(c) Our third and current Chairman, Mr. Tan Tee How, has overseen the transition from CRA to GRA, and I believe you have your work cut out for you.
(d) Our past and present Chief Executives - Mr. T Raja Kumar, Mr. Lau Peet Meng, Mr. Jerry See, and Mr. Teo Chun Ching – have guided the CRA with a clear sense of direction, even as we sailed through uncharted waters. Each of you has helped build the CRA into a leading regulator – one that is now ready to take on an expanded mandate as GRA.
19. I would also like to thank our board members, both past and present. As established leaders in your own fields, you have been generous in offering us the benefit of your diverse experiences, insights, and viewpoints. Thank you so much to all of our board members.
20. Next, our partner agencies:
(a) The Ministry of Social and Family Development and the National Council for Problem Gambling;
(b) The Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore Tourism Board and Sentosa Development Corporation;
(c) The Ministry of Finance, and the Singapore Totalisator Board; as well as
(d) The Singapore Police Force.
21. We have worked together in partnership over the years, and we look forward to continuing our strong collaboration and mutual support.
22. Most importantly, I would like to say thank you to the officers from the CRA and MHA. You have been instrumental in CRA’s success and have done well to see through this transition. Your hard work and commitment are the key reasons for CRA’s success, and for our confidence to embark on this new chapter as GRA.
Together, We Will Continue to be Exceptional
23. And indeed, we have a very strong team of officers in the GRA.
(a) They bring a strong sense of curiosity of the gambling landscape, along with regulatory acumen to tackle issues of concern.
(b) They possess strong domain knowledge and competencies, as well as technological expertise, in areas such as gaming technology, licensing, and compliance, just to name a few.
24. This building up of expertise and capabilities did not happen by chance. It is the result of years of transformation efforts, coupled with a culture of excellence and collaboration, painstakingly developed by our leaders and officers, past and present.
25. At the same time, we must retain this keen sense of mission and values.
(a) The gambling landscape will continue to evolve. As we sail forward, the seas ahead will undoubtedly be choppy. There may come times where we need to adjust our sails.
(b) There may arise for various reasons, technological changes bringing new modes of gambling, or business innovations that introduce new gambling products and we will have to deal with them.
26. But so long as we remain anchored on our mission and values, I am confident that you will be able to overcome these challenges.
27. In conclusion, we have come a long way, and have much to be proud of. And as we embark on this new chapter, I have every confidence that GRA will achieve its vision of being a trusted and agile gambling regulator, for a safe Singapore.
28. Once again, congratulations on the successful formation of GRA.
29. Thank you.