Impact of Singapore’s annual casino levy revealed

By Noah Taylor Updated
Third party authorisations cause problems for Singapore casino

It has been more than a year since Singapore increased the cost of a daily or yearly casino entry pass, with the financial impact and patronage figures recently released.

GGR Asia reports that when the fees increased by 50 per cent from April 4, 2019, local adults visiting casinos dropped 1.3 per cent, according to Tan Tee How, chairman of the city-state’s Casino Regulatory Authority.

The levy increase, which made an annual pass cost US$2195, had been done to “ensure that Singaporeans continue to be protected against the potential harms of casino gambling,” Mr Tan noted in his annual report.

He indicated that “one year after the increase” casino visits made by Singapore citizens and permanent residents dropped to 2.7 per cent of the local population, from four per cent in the 2018 financial year.

Mr Tan added: “Since casinos opened in 2010, the probable problem- and pathological-gambling rate has decreased from 2.6 per cent to 0.9 per cent in 2017.

“This suggests that the local safeguards have been effective,” he said.

Separately, the CRA provided some figures on casino visits by locals for the years 2017 to 2018, in response to an enquiry from Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao.

According to the report, the authority told it that in financial year 2017, “approximately” 130,000 locals visited casinos.

In 2018, that figure was 127,000 and the year of the levy increase, 2019, boasted a figure of 88,000.

This year, Singapore’s two casino resorts – Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa were closed from April 7 as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The casinos reopened on July 1.

Upon reopening, the gaming facilities were available only to certain participants in membership schemes, or to annual levy pass holders, at a time when most foreigners were not being permitted to enter Singapore.

During the period covered by the 2019-20 CRA report, Marina Bay Sands’ promoter received fines totalling almost A$150,000 for four breaches of the city’s Casino Control Act.

Resorts World Sentosa’s promoter also received a fine of about A$20,000 for a breach of the act.

Singapore casinos and attractions to reopen this week

Singapore’s casinos at Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa are among 13 Singapore entertainment attractions granted permission to reopen from Wednesday. 

Asgam reported in April the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Singapore Tourism Board announced  that it had granted permission for the attractions to open following careful assessment of reopening proposals.

However, operations will be limited to no more than 25 per cent of normal capacity and subject to strict health and safety measures.

In a press release issued last Sunday, Marina Bay Sands said it was restricting casino access to Sands Rewards Club members holding gold status and above, plus Annual Levy Holders.

“The casino will also abide by strict safe management measures,” MBS said.

“There will be limitations on the number of patrons at each gaming table, while seats at the electronic gaming machines and slots will be at least one metre apart.

“Safe Distancing Ambassadors will be deployed to ensure there are no bystanders.

“Customer-facing team members will don masks and face shields, and will sanitise their hands before and after shifts at gaming tables.”

MBS said it has trained more than 1000 staff to take on safe distancing roles and will also reopen its ArtScience Museum and Sands SkyPark.

Resorts World Sentosa opened its casino and Universal Studios Singapore from July 1, followed by SEA Aquarium from July 4.

The return of some casino operations comes almost two weeks after Singapore entered phase two of easing COVID-19 restrictions, with both MBS and RWS opening some retail and food and beverage outlets.

Both companies had suspended all operations in early April.

Aside from facilities at the two integrated resorts reopening this week, other entertainment facilities given permission to resume partial operations include Singapore Zoo, Madame Tussauds, Bounce, Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay, Jurong Bird Park, River Safari and Zero Latency.

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