The contrasting approaches to gambling regulation being taken by authorities in Singapore and Australia this year highlight just how challenging it can be to establish a model suitable for each unique jurisdiction.
In Singapore, the process is now well underway to merge the current Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA), which oversees Singapore’s two casinos, and the Gambling Regulatory Unit, which regulates remote gambling services and “fruit machines”, into a single body to be known as the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA). The reason, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs, is the emergence of new technological and global trends that are better served by bringing regulatory resources together.
The new GRA “will consolidate and optimize gambling regulatory resources within a single agency,” the Ministry said when first announcing its plans in 2020.
This is in stark contrast to developments in Australia where state governments in both Victoria and NSW are de-coupling the regulation of gaming and liquor into separate bodies. The response is in both cases due to the fallout of recent inquiries into Crown Resorts which found the current regulatory model was drawing much-needed resources away from casino oversight.
As such, Victoria announced late last year that a new dedicated casino and gambling regulator, the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC), will take over regulation of gaming from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR). The new regulator will include a dedicated casino regulation division focused solely on Crown Melbourne.
Likewise, the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) will soon be replaced by a standalone casino regulator with the state’s Minister for Digital and Customer Service, Victor Dominello, stating last year that there was need for a “redesigned regulatory structure for casinos in NSW, with a clearer focus on addressing money laundering risks inherently associated with casino activities.”
The “streamlining” of regulatory resources is typically a cost-saving exercise. There is no gold standard regulatory model but the public sector trend in many jurisdictions has been to consolidate, and in places like Australia, where gambling is still a dirty word (despite the billions in tax revenue governments rake in each year), its regulation has been given extremely low priority. Out of sight, out of mind – at least until the Crown Resorts affair blew that idea out of the water.
Which is not to say that consolidation can’t work. With strong leadership and a clear mission statement on what and how a regulatory model will succeed, jurisdictions like Singapore – widely viewed as a classic example of how casino resorts can positively transform a city – are well placed to make such streamlining work. Time will tell if it can avoid the pitfalls experienced by others.
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