'Casino association' an unregistered society

SINGAPORE - More than a year after it was set up, the origins and purpose of a so-called Singapore Casino Association (SCA) remain murky.

The SCA says it wants to lobby against anti-casino sentiments and just last month, was named by a government body as an example of a "key stakeholder" in the industry.

But The Straits Times has since found out that Singapore's only casino operators Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands are not members.

The SCA is not even on the Registry of Societies, and the address of the company behind it belongs to a Housing Board (HDB) flat in Bukit Batok.

SCA's founder and secretary-general, who asked not to be named, told The Straits Times in an e-mail that he plans to hold a beauty pageant and conferences, help families affected by gambling, and raise funds.

He said that membership figures are "classified" and declined to answer questions on his background. He added that he has not registered the association as he was short of funds.

SCA's website states that it was formed in December 2012 and it members are drawn from casino operators, hotels, travel firms and casino patrons.

Membership fees range from $300 for casino patrons to $150,000 for casino operators. The website adds that its objectives are to "regulate direct or indirect casino industries partners and members activities" and "to neutralise pressure group or any anti-casino group in Singapore".

From the association's website, The Straits Times traced it to a local company called Roman MBT Integration. Official records showed that the firm has a paid-up capital of $3 and its registered address is a fourth-floor HDB flat in Bukit Batok Street 21.

The firm's sole owner is Mr Chew Chee Hong, a Singapore citizen in his early forties. The firm has set up at least one other unregistered body - the Singapore Arowana Association.

SCA's mysterious background, however, did not prevent the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) from naming it in an official review on how casino staff are trained.

As part of the review, the WDA said it expects the consultants it hires to draw up the new training model to consult "key stakeholders" such as the SCA.

But after queries from The Strait Times, the agency has distanced itself from the association, with a spokesman saying last week: "WDA has not established any working relationship with the SCA."

The Casino Regulatory Authority added: "We are not aware of this SCA and we do not have any dealings with it."

The Ministry of Home Affairs, which oversees the Registry of Societies, warned: "All societies that are not registered are deemed to be unlawful under Section 14 of the Societies Act."

The ministry did not comment on whether it would investigate the association.

Under the Act, those convicted of running unlawful societies may be jailed up to five years, while its members may be fined up to $5,000, or jailed up to three years, or both.

Internet expert Ang Peng Hwa of the Nanyang Technological University said that the association's website already raises doubts on its authenticity.

The domain name, for instance, was traced to an overseas firm which helps website owners conceal their identities.

Said the director of the Singapore Internet Research Centre: "There are grammatical problems peppered all over the page and the page has not been updated.

"This is a pretty basic warning."


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.