Casino Control Act
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The Casino Control Act was enacted in 2006 to regulate the operations and gaming in casinos, in preparation for the opening of the Integrated Resorts (IRs). It establishes and makes provision for the new statutory board the Casino Regulatory Authority of Singapore (CRA) to administer and enforce the Act, and empowered the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) to issue casino exclusion orders. Social safeguards such as the levy of entry fees at S$100 for every 24 hours and S$2000 annual membership on Singapore citizens and permanent residents are provided for in the Act.
Gambling in Singapore is by large illegal apart from a few authorized activities managed by Singapore Turf Club and Singapore Pools. There are four statutes in Singapore that govern gaming: Common Gaming Houses Act (Cap. 49), the Betting Act (Cap. 21), the Private Lotteries Act (Cap. 250), and the Betting and Sweepstake Duties Act (Cap. 22). Broadly, these Acts prohibit gaming activities, betting and lotteries in common gaming houses or public lotteries, unless exemptions were given or permits had been sought. For many years, the government has resisted calls to set up casinos in Singapore.
On 18 April 2005, the Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the Cabinet’s decision to develop two IRs at Marina Bayfront and Sentosa. These IRs will have hotels, shopping malls, convention spaces and other amenities including casinos. In his speech, PM Lee explained the change in the government’s long standing policy with regards to casinos, due to concern with losing competitiveness in economy and tourism to other cosmopolitan cities.
A national framework was then put in place with measures to address gambling problems. These include a new regulatory agency CRA to regulate the casino, a new legislative measure in the form of Casino Control Act, setting up a national council to address problem gambling and professional medical treatment for gambling addiction.
The Casino Control Bill was first tabled in the Parliament on 16 January 2006 by the Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng and passed by the Parliament on 14 February 2006. It authorises the award of a maximum of two casino licenses during the period of 10 years commencing from the date on which a second site for a casino is designated. The two IRs were subsequently awarded to Las Vegas Sands Corporation (Marina Bayfront) and Genting-Star Cruises Consortium (Sentosa). The second IR on Sentosa was awarded on 8 December 2006.
The Casino Control Act (Cap. 33A) was crafted to “make provision for the operation and regulation of casinos and gaming in casinos; to establish the CRA, to provide for its functions and powers...”. It draws reference from similar Statutes overseas including Casino Control Act 1991 (Australia, Victoria), Gambling Regulation Act 2003 (Australian, Victoria), Casino Control Act 1992 (Australia, New South Wales), Nevada Gambling Control Act (United States, Nevada) and Problem Gambling Family Protection Orders Act 2004 (Australia, South Australia).
The objectives of the Act can be broadly categorized into three areas. Firstly, it establishes the incorporation of the CRA which is supervised by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Act empowers the CRA to license and regulate the operations of casinos, to approve any system of controls and administration of the casinos and to investigate offences committed in casinos in Singapore (Part II).
Secondly, the Act sets out a regulatory regime for the casino operator and related business parties. It sets controls on the licensing of casino operators and requires the operators to seek approval for its system of internal controls, administrative and accounting procedures.
Lastly, the Act provides social safeguards to counter the issue of problem gambling:
(1) Entry fees will be levied on Singapore citizens and permanent residents at $100 for every 24 hours in the casinos and $2000 annual membership
(2) Persons below the age of 21 years are also prohibited from entering the casinos
(3) Casino and junket operators are prohibited from extending credit to Singapore citizens and permanent residents, unless they are premium players as defined in the Act
(4) Automated teller machines (ATMs) will be prohibited within the casinos
(5) The establishment of the NCPG and empowerment given to the Council to issue exclusion orders to stop problem gamblers from entering the casinos
Changes were proposed under Casino Control (Amendment) Act 2009 and they include:
(1) New sub-section 146B to allow the Inland Revenue of Singapore to administer the collection of taxes more efficiently
(2) For self and third-party exclusion orders, there is no longer a need for Committee of Assessors to convene and decide, and no need for hard copy notifications
18 Apr 2005 : PM Lee announced Singapore Government’s decision to proceed with development of two integrated resorts (IR) with casinos.
31 Aug 2005 : Formation of National Council on Problem Gambling.
17 Oct – 11 Nov 2005 : MHA puts up draft Casino Control Bill for public consultation.
16 Jan 2006 : First reading of the Casino Control Bill at Parliament.
13 Feb 2006 : Second reading of the Bill.
14 Feb 2006 : Parliament passed the Bill.
1 Jun 2006 : Date of commencement of Casino Control Act 2006 (section 2 only). See Subsidiary legislation S278/2006.
8 Mar 2008 : Revision of Act (Cap. 33A)(2007 revised edition).
2 Apr 2008 : Commencement of section 3 and 4, Section 5 to 33 and 37 of Act, parts III to XIII and the schedule. See S176/2008.
2 Apr 2008 : Formation of the CRA.
1 Jul 2008: Commencement of section 34 – 39 of Act. See S329/2008.
12 Dec 2008 : Problem Gambling – Exclusion Orders: Arrangement of Rules. See S623/2008.
18 Aug 2009 : First reading of the Casino Control (Amendment) Bill.
16 Sep 2009 : Second and Third reading of (Amendment) Bill and passing of Bill.
9 Sep 2009 : Subsidiary legislation on the Act regarding gaming equipment regulations and licensing of special employees enacted. See S414 – S415/2009.
23 Sep 2009 : Subsidiary legislation on the Act regarding patron dispute resolution, surveillance, casino layout and casino licenses and fees enacted. See S429 – S432/2009.
13 Oct 2009 : Casino Control (Amendment) Act 2009 published.
Lim Puay Ling
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