Singapore has been working on plans to bring together its different regulatory gaming frameworks under one roof, but the task is proving to be more challenging than expected. Currently, casino operators follow one regulator, while remote gaming operators are directed by another. Having unified regulatory oversight would simplify the industry, but COVID-19 is making it difficult for the country to fulfill its mission. After having been expected to be introduced earlier this year, there is now no clear deadline for when the new regulatory structure will be in place.
COVID-19 Continues Causing Damage
COVID-19 has been a problem for a number of reasons and doesn’t appear ready to give up its fight on any front. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MRA) of Singapore began working on plans last year to overhaul the country’s gaming industry, expecting to introduce at least some of its initiatives in the first quarter of this year. Thanks to COVID-19’s stubbornness and refusal to go away, the MRA’s efforts have been frustrated at almost every turn.
The MRA wants to create the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA) to pull together the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) and the Gambling Regulatory Unit (GRU) into a single body. The CRA is responsible for overseeing the country’s land-based casinos, currently the Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, and the GRU is in charge of remote gambling services and so-called “fruit machines” – slot machines that, in order to be legal, include an element of skill and are not based solely on luck.
The CRA, as the largest of the gambling regulatory bodies, is leading the fusion of the two elements and stated this week that the global pandemic is forcing delays. Tan Tee How, the CRA chairman, explained, “With most employees working from home during the pandemic, it has not been easy for CRA officers to prepare for GRA, as much of the developmental work requires intensive face-to-face discussions.”
Delay of New Structure Has Its Benefits
While Singapore would like to have seen more progress with the revamping of its gaming framework, the delays aren’t totally bad news. The additional time is giving authorities more flexibility to discuss how the GRA will work, as well as how it will prepare the country’s future gaming laws. The GRA will have to introduce a number of new processes that include additional training, new licensing procedures and more, and the delay allows those involved to fully consider all angles before making their final decisions.
The chairman added, “For GRA to be effective in carrying out its new functions, we must strive to be a smart regulator – by anticipating trends and risks, and by entrenching risk management in our decision-making. This entails, for example, the deepening of our sense-making and data analytics capabilities. To this end, GRA would dedicate resources to conduct deep-dive research and environmental scans of the gambling landscape. We will need to closely understand emerging products and trends in order to strengthen evidence-based policy formulation.”
Currently, no definitive launch date for the GRA is in place because of the delays. It’s likely that it won’t be fully ready until the second quarter of next year, perhaps the first quarter.