By Jessica Lim & Lim Wei Chean
IT WILL be months before the first cards are dealt at Singapore's two casinos, but several employees have already been fired because of stringent rules that dictate who can work there.
Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) has fired more than 30 casino employees, while Marina Bay Sands (MBS) has also told an unknown number of workers to go.
The Straits Times understands that the workers' applications to work at the gaming tables were rejected by the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA).
No reasons were given, but it is likely that the affected workers had brushes with the law in the past.
There is one key difference between the actions taken by the two sides, however. The affected MBS' workers have not started work, although they were given employment contracts.
But RWS' employees had completed their three-month training stints: Some croupiers it hired were even sent overseas for training.
The workers were told on Thursday that they had to go, a day after RWS opened four of its six hotels.
Initially, RWS wanted them to repay $8,000 in training costs, but it later waived this requirement.
MBS, meanwhile, broke the news to its employees last month.
It sent e-mail messages to those affected, saying that their employment contracts were voided because they had failed CRA background checks.
Unlike RWS, which began training its casino staff last October, MBS started instructions for a few hundred dealer inspectors, and cage and surveillance staff, only recently. The dealers are not slated to begin their training until after Chinese New Year next month.
When asked if affected workers would be offered other positions in the integrated resort (IR), MBS declined to comment.
RWS, however, said that it would be 'happy to assess them for other areas'.
But Mrs Seah-Khoo Ee Boon, its senior vice-president for Human Resources and Training, said: 'It's not a given. They have to go through the selection process.'
Asked why it began training staff before they had been cleared to work in the casino, she said: 'The training takes up to three months... and we have an opening timeline.'
She added that the IR had conducted background checks on its casino employees. She said all applicants were asked repeatedly during their interviews if they had past criminal records.
'With this group of employees, my guess is that they didn't tell us everything about their background,' said Mrs Seah-Khoo. 'We went though all the records they provided us with and did our due diligence.'
When contacted, some of the workers fired by RWS admitted that they have had scrapes with the law. Some said they had kept old offences from the IR, but others insisted they had come clean.
A 26-year-old croupier-hopeful, who wanted to be known only as Derrick, said he did not declare a shoplifting offence he committed when he was 14.
'I didn't really know it was considered an offence,' said Derrick, who quit his job as a real estate agent to join the IR in October. 'It was so long ago and I wasn't charged.' He will be appealing to the CRA for another chance.
Another affected employee, who would give his name only as Daniel, said he told RWS 'everything', including being caught for selling fake DVDs when he was 14. He said the resort told him to take his chances anyway. 'This is not fair at all. I was upfront and now I am jobless,' said the 26-year-old, who used to be an events organiser.
Responding to questions from The Straits Times about CRA's criteria, its spokesman Vivian Heng said: 'The criteria for approving special employee licences are consistent with those of jurisdictions such as the United States and Australia.
'They are essentially stringent criteria, given that a casino is an environment where very large amounts of cash are involved. Thus, those with criminal records that involve dishonesty, lack of integrity or a blatant disregard for the law would not be suitable for this specific industry.'
It is possible that more employees could be fired in future as CRA still has employment applications before it.
Yesterday, Mrs Seah-Khoo brushed off the impact of the sackings on future casino operations. 'This is actually a small number compared to those whose licences have been approved.'
This story was first published in The Straits Times.