Singapore ups ante for casino firms with new rules, bigger fine

Singapore ups ante for casino firms with new rules, bigger fine
Patrons having their identity cards scanned before entering the Resorts World casino.

SINGAPORE- In any casino, the odds favour the house. Using its house edge, Singapore is seeking to maximise economic profits and minimise social costs with tighter rules and tougher fines for two casino operators, along with new steps to curb problem gambling.

The wealthy and regimented city-state has enjoyed a windfall of tourism, jobs and revenue since Las Vegas Sands Corp and Genting Singapore Plc opened casino complexes in 2010, in part by linking their licences to how well they develop attractions that are not related to gambling.

Under that mandate, the two operators have added theme parks, museums, theatres and hotels, boutiques and restaurants to Singapore's landscape as the Asian business hub recasts itself as a global city and oasis for the rich.

Amendments to the Casino Control Act cleared Parliament late last year and now await formal passage into law, giving the operators of Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) little choice but to adapt to the new rules - including fines of up to 10 per cent of gaming revenue - and the costs of compliance.

"It is timely that the legislation be reviewed and further tweaks be made to ensure that the objectives of setting up the integrated resorts are achieved," said Yap Wai Ming, a partner at Stamford Law Corp who tracks casino regulation. "They have already invested billions of dollars and the casinos are still generating very healthy profits despite the enforcement actions."

MBS declined to comment on the new rules and a spokeswoman did not respond to another query about the prospects for its non-gaming business.

Genting Bhd chairman Lim Kok Thay said last month he expects tourists to play a big part in RWS's growth and its non-gambling business to continue to do better than the gaming side that brings in the bulk of revenues.

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