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Singapore has revealed plans to create a new Gambling Regulatory Authority by 2021 under the mandate of the Casino Regulatory Authority as it looks to unite its betting and gaming bodies under a single agency.

It is hoped that this will allow GRA to become more effective to technological and global trends, and to respond faster to emerging products, whilst taking a more holistic approach to gambling policies and issues.

The Ministry said: “To ensure that our laws and regulatory approach towards gambling keep pace with the evolving gambling landscape and remain effective, MHA will be reviewing and amending gambling-related legislation by 2021. 

“Gambling regulation in Singapore is currently overseen by various Government agencies. CRA regulates the casinos, while the Gambling Regulatory Unit in MHA regulates remote gambling services and fruit machines. The Singapore Totalisator Board governs terrestrial gambling services operated by the Singapore Pools. 

The Singapore Police Force takes enforcement action against illegal gambling activities. In addition, the Ministry of Social and Family Development is responsible for social safeguards to address the harms of gambling, and also regulates the advertising and promotion of gambling, as well as the Responsible Gambling Programmes of regulated entities.”

The Ministry went on to state that gambling related crimes remain low in number and that problem gambling is “under control.”

According to the Ministry, casino crimes contributed to fewer than one per cent of overall figures, and the number of people arrested for illegal gambling has decreased by 28 per cent from 2011 to 2019.

Probable pathological and problem gambling rates have remained stable with less than one per cent over the past five years. However, the Ministry states that there are “emerging trends,” like the change in technology creating more access, that can have a “significant impact” on the gambling landscape.

The Ministry added: “MHA will review and amend all gambling legislation by 2021 to ensure that our regulatory mechanisms can effectively address evolving gambling products and business models. For example, we will study the need to regulate products such as ‘mystery boxes’. 

“We will also review the penalties for offences to ensure consistency across remote and terrestrial gambling. Even as we update our laws, MHA will retain a generally prohibitive stance towards gambling, and continue to maintain a risk-based regulatory approach towards existing gambling operators. 

“As part of the upcoming transformation in the gambling regulatory landscape, MHA will engage key stakeholders to take on board their views in the coming year. These include gambling operators, religious organisations, social service agencies, and members of the public.”

Macau is now the only place in the Asia-Pacific region with casinos still open as Singapore confirmed over the weekend that its integrated casinos, Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, would shut almost all its services from tomorrow for a month.