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

Tue Jan 8, 2013 1:43am EST
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By John O'Callaghan and Kevin Lim

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - In any casino, the odds favor the house. Using its house edge, Singapore is seeking to maximize economic profits and minimize 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 licenses 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 high-end 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 and Resorts World Sentosa little choice but to adapt to the new rules - including fines of up to 10 percent 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."

Marina Bay Sands declined to comment on Singapore's new rules and a spokeswoman did not respond to another query about the prospects for its non-gaming business.

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

SOCIAL COST?   Continued...

Fireworks explode over Marina Bay in front of the Marina Bay Sands casino and resort during a pyrotechnic show to welcome the new year in Singapore January 1, 2011. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash