Will the casino business face difficult challenges in Singapore by 2016?

Master's Thesis 2013 60 Pages

Business economics - Miscellaneous














' I declare that this Dissertation/Research Project, is in its entirety, my own

work, that where the language of others is set forth, quotation marks so indicate, and that appropriate credit is given where I have used the language, ideas, expressions or writings of another. I further declare that this work has not previously been presented in whole or part, for any other award, or published in whole or in part elsewhere, including this university


In 2005, the Singapore government announced to their citizens a proposal to have two casinos in Singapore as part of a project to build two Integrated Resorts with reasons given that the country was losing its competitiveness in the tourism industry and that the country needed to reinvent itself in order to revitalise the economy. Though there were initial objections from within the parliament members as well as some community and religious groups, the controversial project was eventually given the go ahead and in 2010, the two Integrated Resorts with the two casinos were opened, bringing in tourism receipts in the first quarter of 2011 with a jump of more than 35% from 2010. Visitor arrivals rose by almost 16% with sightseeing and entertainment (includes casino gaming) more than tripled.

Using a combination of primary and secondary data as well as exploratory, descriptive and causal research methodologies, this dissertation paper examines Singaporean’s perceptions of casino gambling as a tool of economic and tourism development and the government’s role in shaping the future of the casino industry in Singapore. In particular, the paper examines whether residents perceive what the Singapore government has promised, that casinos will revitalize their communities by rejuvenating the local economic development, attracting new industries and stimulating tourism growth, or whether the impact has been more negative, resulting in more social repercussions and crimes than the benefits it is supposed to be bringing in. In short, from the Singaporean’s perspective, are the casinos taking more out of the community than they contribute to it?


Foremost, I would like to thank my mentor Dr. Mark Stuart Fairhurst for his learned advice, guidance and patience throughout the dissertation phase. The time and support received from my academic instructors who led the course work modules have been invaluable and very much appreciated.

My heartfelt gratitude also goes to my boss Ian Lumsden for encouraging me to upgrade myself continuously both academically and professionally and my manager Matt Fessenden for his kind understanding and unwavering support that allowed me to juggle my time and commitment between works, travels, family and studies.

Last but not least, my company Rolls-Royce PLC for sponsoring this MBA programme which not only has opened up my horizon in looking at business and operations management from a strategic perspective, but has also taught me much about time management skills.


1.1 Background

In April 2005, the Singapore government announced a controversial decision to develop two casinos in Singapore, amidst considerable objections and debates among many Singaporeans, religious groups and social workers. Within the Cabinet itself, there were internal disagreements on allowing the casino industry to penetrate into Singapore.

Despite being challenged by several members of their very own political party within the Cabinet, the government maintained its position to go ahead with the plan. The decision to proceed with the integrated resorts is often seen as a paradigm shift for the conservative Singapore society as the core belief system in the eyes of many traditional Singaporeans is that the government used to resist gambling and not sanctioning them (Ting, 2008).

During the time of the casino debate, the concerns raised by many were mostly about the social impact that casinos could bring to Singapore that may breed the problem of compulsive gambling and its related social problems. There were also concerns that undesirable illegal activities such as money laundering and loansharking operated by transnational and organised crime syndicates may increase as a result. Conscious of these concerns, the Singapore government conducted several rounds of surveys and feedback sessions to ensure that all concerns were looked into before introducing the idea of casinos together with concepts of theme parks, hotels, restaurants, museums, opera house in the form of Integrated Resorts into the society.

To provide confidence to the public that the laws will be put in place before the casinos were opened, the Casino Control Act was passed in 2006 (Statutes of Singapore, 2013a). To ensure that casino operators follow the rules strictly, the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA), which is a statutory board responsible for casino licensing and regulating was also set up in 2008.

When both the Integrated Resorts were opened in 2010, the government announced that all Singaporeans have to pay an entrance fee of SGD 100 per day or SGD 2,000 per year if they want to enter the casinos. In order to operate their business in Singapore, the casino operators have to accept this special arrangement imposed by the authority to deter Singaporeans from visiting the casinos. The government wanted to assure Singaporeans that by imposing the mandatory entrance fee for all Singaporeans, the chances of Singaporeans visiting the casino frequently would be greatly reduced which could also effectively control the potential of problem gambling in Singapore. As emphasized by the Prime Minister of Singapore (Lee, 2005), the objective of having casinos in Singapore was purely for economic reasons as the country was losing its competitiveness to Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand in the tourism industry, The government also announced that besides contributing significantly to the Singapore economy in terms of boosting tourism and revenue collected from the casinos, the Integrated Resorts were expected to create 35,000 jobs in Singapore.

Built at a record cost of S$8 billion, the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) includes a 120,000 square meter convention centre, a museum, two theatres, seven celebrity chef restaurants, 2 floating Crystal Pavilions, an ice-skating rink and a super mall with 300 luxury shops topped with a Louis Vuitton flagship outlet that appears to be floating in the Marina Bay. Its 2,561 luxury hotel rooms in three towers are connected across the top with the world's largest elevated infinity pool as well as an observation deck 57 storeys above downtown, forming a new signature for the Singapore skyline.

Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is a S$6.59 billion Integrated Resort on the island of Sentosa, off the southern coast of Singapore. Besides casino gaming, its key attractions include a world-class theme park by Universal Studio, a maritime experiential museum, six hotels and the world’s largest oceanarium.

In 2011, the casino industry in Singapore had already raked in USD 6 billion and by 2012, both casinos in Singapore had already contributed 1.5% - 2% to Singapore’s GDP. In terms of employment, both resorts were also accounted for 1.8% of employment in the country (Naidu, 2013).

Though the government’s assurance to its people that the two casinos will bring in significant economic benefits has appeared to have materialized and the fruit of labour has been promising so far, the potential social impacts that the authority has promised to contain has also appeared to have been underestimated as the Casino Control Act 2012 has been amended again on Jan 2013 to further strengthen its control and tighten the rules.

The renewed license for Marina Bay Sands will expire on April 25, 2016 and the renewed license for Resorts World Sentosa will expire on Feb. 5, 2016 (Casino Regulatory Authority, 2013). That means in 3 years’ time, both casino operators’ license to continue to operate in Singapore would have to be reviewed by the authority and they would have to agree to the new terms and regulations of the law if they wish to continue their business in Singapore.

1.2 Research Aim

The research objective of this paper is to examine the various factors affecting the casino business in Singapore and to determine what the future is like for the casino industry in Singapore when their licenses are to be renewed.

This paper will also be discussing on the reasons behind the introduction of the Singapore casinos, packaged in the form of Integrated Resorts (IRs) in Singapore and how the various forms of control and regulatory strategies were introduced by the government to manage the social impact of gambling. Though there were initial scepticisms and debates from several Singaporeans, social workers and even Members of Parliament from within the government on how effective the control measures could be to promote responsible gambling and how the economic benefits would outweigh the social impact, three years have passed since the casinos were opened and the commercial success of the integrated resort and the casinos appeared to have obliterated the concerns which were raised eight years ago.

However, these would need to be examined further in social context as the effectiveness of the control strategies are still being tested and some concerns are still being raised by the social community. With the strict control and regulatory enforcement by the Singapore government against locals visiting casinos coupled with the fact that Japan, Thailand and Philippines are now seriously considering to enter into the Asia casino scene, it appears that the road ahead for the casino industry in Singapore is not going to be smooth sailing.

1.3 Research Questions

The following questions are to be answered at the end of this research paper:

1. What are the current and future stumbling blocks faced by the casino operators in Singapore?
2. Can the significant contributions made by the two Integrated Resorts to the current Singapore economy continue to be sustainable in the near future?
3. Do the benefits outweigh the costs?
4. What are the social and criminal problems generated by the casino industry and can these be controlled?
5. Will the growing competitiveness of the casino industry in Asia affect the evolving landscape of the Integrated Resorts in Singapore?

1.4 Justification of Research

As the government takes a very serious view on public opinions on casinos in Singapore (it may affect how people will vote for/against the current dominant political party in the next General Election expected in 2016), the evolving perception of the general Singapore population’s take on casino gambling from the day the industry was introduced into Singapore till today will be closely examined and analysed. The effectiveness of the business strategy adopted by the casino operators to circumvent the barriers to their profitability in Singapore will also be reviewed to analyse the future direction of this industry.

1.5 Conclusion

While Chapter 1 provides the background for this dissertation and what the research aims to achieve, Chapter 2 will focus on the review of recent and past literatures on social impacts associated with the casino industry and how other countries tackle it, commercial aspects of casino business strategies and its economic benefits both from a micro and a macro perspective. In Chapter 3, the limitations of the research will be highlighted and the tools and methodologies used in this research will be explained. To ensure that the research is unbiased and triangulated, both quantitative and qualitative research methodology will be used to look at the spending pattern of visitors to the Singapore Integrated Resorts and compare it with the business model used in Macau and Vegas. In Chapter 4, results from surveys and statistics pulled out from the National Council on Problem Gambling from the research made in Chapter 3 and the literature reviewed in Chapter 2 will be compared and analysed against the backdrop of the benefits that the casinos are supposed to be bring in and the social costs that will come inevitably with this industry. Chapter 5 wraps up this study with a projected outlook on the future of the casino industry in Singapore.


2.1 Introduction

Several research and studies (Eadington, 1999; Goodman, 1995; MacCartney, 2005; Smith & Hinch, 1996; Loi and Kim, 2010; Grinols and Mustard, 2006) have been made on the subject of casinos and their effects on society and the economy. While some journals examine the commercial aspects of casino business strategies and how the industry is shaped by the evolution of consumer behaviours (Eadington, 1998; Nichols, Giacopassi, & Stitt, 2002; Gu and Gao, 2012), other literatures explore the social impacts of this gaming industry and how it contributes to the increase in social problems (Albanese, 2008; Reith, 2006; Pizam and Pokela, 1985). The following literature reviews will examine the efficacy of generating economic wealth through casino industry and the academic debates on the social impact brought along by this industry in other parts of the world.

2.2 Casino as a Catalyst for Economic Development

In his study on the major changes that have developed in the casino and gaming industries over the past 40 years, Eadington (1999) lays out the economic principles that have shaped the development of legalized gaming in US. While Goodman (1995) calls it a “potential cancer on the fabric of society” and warns that the gambling industry may not be as profitable and lucrative as what people imagine, Eadington (1998) recognizes that casino gaming has received greater public acceptance as a form of recreational activity though from society's historical perspective, the gambling trade has been a controversial and morally questionable activity alongside alcohol, tobacco, controlled drugs, and the commercial sex industry. In analysing the cost-benefits and rationales for legalizing casinos, Eadington identifies three areas of gains in legalizing casinos. Firstly, the enjoyment in terms of overall entertainment experience for those who gamble; secondly, the economic benefits that come along with casinos, such as job creation, investment stimulus, tourism and economic development and urban revitalization; and thirdly the tax revenue received by the government. Applying these findings to the Singapore context, the second and third areas of benefits are exactly what the Singapore government was pitching for. Studies by Nichols, Giacopassi, & Stitt (2002) also show that casino gambling has been used by many countries as a catalyst of economic development.

To look for a success story of how casino gambling can transform a small country into a popular tourist attraction destination, let us take a look at Macau. Dubbed as the “Las Vegas of Asia” (MacCartney, 2005), Macau is the only location in China with legalised gambling. When the Macau government liberalised its monopolistic gambling industry in 2002/2003 to the international casino operators, the country became the 3rd largest gaming market in the world (behind Las Vegas and Atlantic City), with gaming revenues of USD 3.5 billion, accounting for 70% of the Macau government’s total annual revenue (Healy, 2004). By 2011, Macau’s gambling revenue was reported to be a staggering US$33.5 billion (Gaming Sector Survey, 2011), a 42% increase over 2010 and 5.5 times that of the total revenue generated in 2011 on the Las Vegas strip (Stutz, H., 2012), putting Macau in the lead as the world’s biggest gaming industry, with Vegas and Singapore taking over the 2nd and 3rd positions respectively.

How did Macau do it? For a start, legalized gambling in Macau has been a tool for economic stimulus since the 1840s. In terms of social conditioning for the local residents, the gaming culture in Macau has already been entrenched for more than 170 years without any significant long term negative impacts on their social life and unique cultural background and heritage. The residents of Macau, who have already been conditioned one generation after another, recognize the importance of this industry in contributing to their entire economy which brings along tourism development and job creation. The receptiveness and the support given by the residents are important to the continuous development of this industry. In addition to this, for the casino industry to maximize its net economic benefits, the casinos must primarily be functioning as part of the tourist attraction within the resort and patronized by foreign visitors (Smith & Hinch, 1996). Learning the Macau story and applying it to the Singapore casino scene, we could see that the Singapore government understands the importance of these pre- requisites as the way the proposal was pitched to the Singaporeans before the casino plans were given the thumbs up was along the same context.

The numerous face-to-face government and public dialogues to explain the benefits of the casinos and listening to the public’s concerns were necessary to show to the residents that their views are valued and their support are sought after. The fact that the casino space is limited to only 5 percent of the total floor area in RWS (Resort World Sentosa) and 3 percent of the total floor space in MBS (Marina Bay Sands) is to convince the residents in Singapore that the casinos are only a small part of the tourist attraction within the Integrated Resorts and targeted at foreign visitors.

However, taking a step back, why did the Singapore government choose to revisit the proposal to lift the barrier for casinos in Singapore when the exact same idea was proposed and shot down twice; first time in 1985 by Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and second time in 2002 by then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong? The reason as explained by the Lee government in 2005 was that despite the earlier repeated rejections of this proposal by the Singapore government, it has come to a stage where Singapore needed to reinvent itself in order to survive competitively in the global economy (Lee, 2005). The decision to proceed with the development of the integrated resorts was a paradigm shift for Singapore society, requiring a ‘significant modification of the core belief system’ long adopted by Singaporeans, which held that gambling was something to be resisted, not sanctioned, by government (Ting, 2008).

When we look at the other cities in Asia over the past decade to reaffirm what the Singapore government has claimed, it is true that most cities have either reinvented themselves or are in the process of doing so. Hong Kong opened its very own Disneyland in 2005 with talks of building a casino in Lantau Island; Taiwan has mooted the idea of an Integrated Resort to be built in Matsu, a clutch of islets located 200km north of Taiwan; Philippines is expected to build a $4 billion casino on a reclaimed land in Manila Bay sometime in the near future; Vietnam has also jumped onto the bandwagon with its first casino resort expected to be launched later this year. From the increasing number of cities/countries breaking their conservative mind-set against gambling to promoting gambling for reasons of stimulating economic growth and bringing in economic benefits, it appears that this popular strategy of rejuvenating the economy are now being adopted by many countries in the name of “reinventing themselves”.

2.3 The Right Profit Formula for the Singapore Casinos

To understand which formula works best for the casinos in Singapore Integrated Resorts, let’s look at what works well for the other leading players in this gaming industry.

According to Loi and Kim (2010), gaming revenue in Macau accounts for more than 50% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 70% of government revenue. This means that Macau relies heavily on the revenue from this industry in sustaining its economic position. It is also interesting to note that more than 85% of visitors in Macau are from China and Hong Kong, which puts the sustainability of this source of revenue at risk when we look at this from a business continuity angle. Any changes in the destination preference in these two main target markets can have a significant impact on their country’s GDP. And this can arise from changes in visa policies, international political relationships, competitions around the Asia region that could dilute its customer concentration.

In addition to this, Loi and Kim’s research highlights the difference in strategy adopted between operating a casino business in the Western society and an Asian society and analyse the gaming preference between Western gamblers and Asian gamblers. Their research in 2007 shows that gamblers in Macau favour table games to slot machines (VIP baccarat alone accounted for 67 percent of total gaming revenue for 2007, compared to slot machines which accounted for only 4.3 percent). In Vegas, gamblers favoured the slot machines (65 percent of total gaming revenue). Loi and Kim also noted that for the same year, 96 percent of the revenue made by Macau’s Integrated Resorts came from gaming while in Vegas, gaming revenue contributed only 46 percent of its total revenue collected. The rest of Vegas earnings predominantly came from entertainment, conventions, shopping and shows (Gu and Gao, 2012). When this interesting phenomenon was further examined, it was observed that most of the visitors to Macau casinos are from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan whereas Vegas visitors are usually Westerners.

Mapping these research findings to the Singapore context, we could see that the demographics and type of visitors of Singapore casinos is closer to Macau’s than Vegas. Singapore’s Annual Report on Tourism Statistics (2013) shows that there was a significant increase in visitors to Singapore after the casinos were opened in 2010. The top three most visitors are from the Asia Pacific Region i.e. China, Indonesia and Malaysia.

By comparing the research findings of past literatures on both Asian casinos and Western casinos, we could see that the customer preference of gaming is quite distinct between Asians and Westerners. Gambling is a favourite pastime for the Asians, especially Asian Chinese. Even the casinos in Australia registered the highest number of visitors from China (47 per cent), Malaysia (40 per cent), Hong Kong (37 per cent) and Singapore (35 per cent). In comparison, casino visitors comprised a lower share of visitors from New Zealand (23 per cent), North America (20 per cent), the United Kingdom (20 per cent), and continental Europe (15 per cent) (Rossetto, 1999).

When we look at all these research studies done on the different geographies, the collective findings seem to suggest that most visitors who visit casinos in Asia’s Integrated Resorts are Asians who prefer table gaming as compared to Westerners who prefer slot machines, shopping, dining and theatre/musical entertainment experience (Loi and Kim, 2010; Kale & Spence, 2009; Zangeneh, Blaszczynski & Turner, 2008).

In their research comparing gamblers’ behaviours between Asian markets and Western markets, Kale & Spence (2009) observe that Asian customers prefer table games like Baccarat and Blackjack which feature live dealers while Western customers tend to play automated slot machines which require minimal employee-customer interaction. Borrowing a quote mentioned by Kale & Spence (2009) that "the difference between Westerners and the Chinese is that for Westerners gambling is about entertainment and calculating probabilities. For the Chinese it's a battle with destiny", the difference in perception and attitude towards gambling between the two distinct target markets would mean that the profit formula adopted by casinos from different geographies would have to be spot on to capture the correct target market and derive maximum benefits from it.

In his journal on Harrah’s Entertainment’s casino business strategy, Loveman (2003) talks about the power of data mining and how the differentiation of Harrah’s business concept away from the traditional Integrated Resorts concept brought about the success of Harrah’s Entertainment. Loveman argues that instead of investing in millions of dollars in building spectacular theme parks, fiery volcanos, expensive theatres, high-end shopping malls and spas to woo visitors into Integrated Resorts which the novelties would eventually wear off, the Integrated Resort industry should look at who the visitors are and what they really want. Loveman emphasizes that through mining the company’s rich database and understanding the customer needs, a long-term relationship with the customers can be cultivated to expand the clientele of repeat customers as customer loyalty is key to sustainable long term profit growth.

When we look at the strategy adopted by the Integrated Resorts in Singapore, it appears that the Singapore government has tried to prevent the new IR concept from mirroring the formula adopted by Macau as Macau’s business model is very much gaming based, which is contrary to what the Singapore government has pitched to its people, that the casinos are merely playing a small supportive role to attract visitors to Singapore rather than a central role in the IR. The restriction of gaming floor space of 3 percent for Marina Bay Sands and 5 percent for Resort World Sentosa is paltry compared to the size of gaming floor space in Macau (more than 30 casinos) and Vegas (more than 150 casinos). What Singapore is trying to achieve is to use the casino as a catalyst and a focal point of a tourist attraction Integrated Resort, to lure visitors to Singapore without relying too much on the casinos as a source of revenue. The objective is to provide a full range of visitor experience which includes entertainment, dining, shopping and relaxation as what Vegas has achieved. Though reports have shown that in 2011 and 2012, the Singapore casinos have collectively brought in S$3.57 billion (Lim, 2011) and SGD$7.5 billion (Naidu, 2013) of revenue to Singapore respectively, when we look at the statistics and profile of visitors coming to Singapore and compare them against those from Macau and Vegas, we cannot help but question whether this is the right business model for Singapore’s Integrated Resorts, in terms of maximizing its full potential in bringing in economic benefits and whether it is sustainable in the long run. The lessons learnt from Macau and Vegas from the literature reviews seem to indicate that Asian visitors to Integrated Resorts are largely drawn towards the casinos and tend to spend more in gaming rather than shopping, dining, or entertainment shows. As for Westerners who visit Integrated Resorts, their spending behaviours are completely the opposite. When we look at the Annual Report for Tourism Statistics in Singapore for 2010/2011 (Annex B), we could see that most tourists who visit Singapore are Asians. If that is the case, why did the Singapore government not mirror the model adopted by Macau and build more casinos with table games to meet the customer demand so that the economic benefits could increase by leaps and bounds? The view taken is that when the Integrated Resort proposal was first mooted, there was already public objections as well as internal disagreement within the government on the potential social problems and crimes that come together with casino gaming. Therefore to get the buy-ins for this project, the government has to first address the concerns through limiting the gaming floor space to only 3 to 5 percent of the entire Integrated Resort to demonstrate to the public that the casinos are only a small part of the Integrated Resorts and the economic benefits would be derived from the other components of the Integrated Resorts i.e. retail shops, theme parks, entertainment and dining…etc. Though this may not be the best business model to derive maximum revenue, it appears to be the only way to break this barrier of resistance and get the show started. Once the proverbial Rubicon is crossed, future proposal to review the profit formula of the Integrated Resorts can always be amended.

2.4 Social Impact and Costs Brought Along By Casinos

It is a well-known fact that whatever economic benefits that the casino industry can bring in, it will inevitably bring along undesirable social issues to the society. The question that is often being asked is, how serious is the social impact? In looking at the opposite end of economic benefits, Eadington (1999) highlights the difficulties in measuring the social costs linked to pathological gambling and warns that effects from poor physical and mental health, job loss, unemployment, bankruptcy, divorce, crime, legal costs…etc could be easily downplayed or overlooked due to challenges in quantifying these costs and connecting its relativity.

Rephann et al (1997) adds that most regional economists, whose stock of analytical techniques are better suited for measuring economic benefits than measuring economic costs, face challenges in determining the social effects of casino gambling as these externalities are usually hidden, diffuse, and difficult to measure using a dollar metric.

In looking at problem gambling, Reith (2006) in examining the patterns of gambling behaviour in Scotland establishes that disadvantaged social groups who depend on welfare benefits and who experience poverty, unemployment, and low levels of education and household income are most likely to suffer the adverse consequences of increased gambling. Reith also found that the closer the local population in Britain lives near to the casinos, the higher the incidence of problem gambling is found. Interestingly, Reith also establishes that the social costs of casinos tend to be exported to the areas where the gamblers live. Her further studies indicate that the location of a casino within 50 miles of an individual’s home actually doubles the prevalence of problem gambling.

This means that ‘resort’ and rural casinos tend to be associated with the lowest social costs, since their customers are largely drawn from just outside the immediate area. Reith’s case study may not be fully relevant to the Singapore context as although the casinos are right in the heart of the city, the country is so small that when it is measured from East to West, it is only 49km and for North to South, it is only 25km. Geographically speaking, the location of the Singapore casinos would have minimum influence on the prevalence problem of gambling in relativity to where gamblers live as the total land area in Singapore is only 714.3 km2. This explains why the Singapore authority is adopting a proactive approach to ensure that appropriate resources and measures are adequately put in place to prevent and treat problem gambling before they become a serious social issue in the country. But is the SGD100 per entry levy or the SGD2000 per annum levy enough to deter Singaporeans from visiting the casino?

A report from The Straits Times (Tai, 2011) shows that the number of people seeking help from counseling centres for problem gambling has risen significantly since the opening of the Integrated Resorts in Singapore. The number of self-exclusion orders issued to Singaporeans and the number of exclusion orders initiated by family members of the gamblers have also seen a sharp increase. Such manifestations in the community are growing indications of problem gambling in the society (Blaszczynski and Nower, 2002).

Records from the Singapore Totalisator Board (Tote Board) show that the government has collected SGD 288 million of casino levies within 18 months from beginning of 2011 to mid- 2012 (The Sunday Times, 2012). Recognizing that the levy only was not an effective tool to discourage Singaporeans from visiting the casino, the government on Jan 2013 made further amendments to the Casino Control Act 2012, to strengthen the social safeguard measures. These include allowing family members or individuals to apply for exclusions as well as visit limits. The law also allows employers to apply for exclusions on behalf of their foreign employees (who are not affected by the levies) to prevent them from gambling their hard- earned monies away. In addition to this, the government also did not rule out the possibility of raising the levies if the amount of levy imposed starts showing its inefficacy to deter visits to the casinos one day.

From the casino operators’ perspective, the strict measures imposed by the Singapore authority to minimize social costs from the casinos’ success has already been a stumbling block to its local market growth as the two casinos’ growth rate for Q4 2012 experienced a slowdown (Naidu, 2013). With the fact that Singapore residents now currently account for 25 to 30 percent of casino visitors and if the government were to further reduce these numbers through increasing levies and putting in place stricter control measures, the future outlook for the two casinos will definitely be a less rosy picture.

2.5 Organized Crime Syndicates and Casinos

Besides issues of problem gambling, the casino industry is also known to attract transnational organized crime syndicates, prostitution rackets, loan sharking and money laundering activities which are hard to detect and many of these complex and well-concealed intricacies have not been adequately researched, so their actual linkages to casino gaming may not be well-understood and likely to be underestimated (Grinols & Mustard, 2006). This was evident in the Singapore casino scene as loansharking activities and advertisements of escort services linked to sex trades appeared to see an increase in Singapore in 2010 and 2011, though they were not classified as casino-related crimes under police statistics. This situation was aptly described by Henderson (2012) that “the harm caused evades precise quantification and proponents of legalization have highlighted compensatory economic impacts.”

Interestingly, there are also some research literatures arguing that legalizing casino gambling actually reduces crime. Evans & Topoleski (2002) in their research on social and economic impacts on Native American casinos establish that the opening of casinos in some part of US has indirectly contributed to the reduction of crimes through providing job opportunities to those who are living in poverty and likely to commit crimes to as low as 14 percent. The full- time and part-time jobs in the casinos have actually helped this under-privileged group to pay off their utility bills and at the same time, keep them off the streets. Albanese (2008) in his research looking into linkages between white collar crimes and casino gambling, also concludes that there is no evidence to suggest that gambling causes white collar crimes.

When the Singapore government legalized soccer betting in 1997, one of the objectives was to reduce illegal bookmaking crimes by giving the public an option to place soccer bets legally (Tai, 2005). To a certain extent, this was effective in reducing the number of illegal bookmakers as their businesses were badly affected by the sheer scale of their ‘legal’ competitor who not only provides conveniently located legitimate betting branches where the punters need not have to worry about being arrested for placing bets, but also provides nice visual updates from the LCD screen TVs displaying the changing betting odds and payouts.

In addition to that, most illegal bookmakers usually operate around red-light districts and crime-prone areas together with illegal loansharking, drugs and vice activities. With lesser people visiting such places to place soccer bets with illegal bookmakers, the general illicit business activities that are parasitic to illegal bookmaking business would also be reduced, resulting in lower crime rates in these locations. By the same token, when the two casinos were opened in 2010, did this also gradually result in some of the illegal gambling establishments in Singapore being outmuscled into obsolescence?

2.6 Social Safeguards

Casinos are described as a distinctive and controversial type of tourist attraction (Bowen, 2009) and crimes associated with casinos are typically drugs, vice activities, and money laundering which usually involves organized crime syndicates (Pizam and Pokela, 1985). Most countries have measures put in place to deter/prevent their local population from frequenting casinos and promote responsible-gambling initiatives. Nevertheless, the boundaries of responsibility for gambling related harms among government, gambling operators and gamblers are often ambiguous (Tai, 2005). In Singapore, measures include:

1. Mandatory daily entry levy of SGD 100 and annual entry levy of SGD 2000 for all Singapore citizens and permanent residents.
2. Prohibition of credit extensions to both Singapore citizens and permanent residents unless they maintain a credit balance of at least SGD 100,000.
3. Minors below the age of 21 not allowed to enter the casinos.
4. Self-exclusion orders that can be applied by anyone and exclusion orders that can be applied on behalf by a family member or an employer for an employee.
5. Those who are un-discharged bankrupts and those who are on government social assistance scheme are automatically banned from the casinos.
6. The setting up of the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) in 2008.
7. The introduction of the Casino Control Act into the Statutes of Singapore.
8. The creation of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) within the Ministry of Community Development to monitor the social impact caused by casinos.
9. Junketeers and representatives must undergo scrutiny and checks by the authority before they are licensed to operate, limited to a very small number of players.

Whether these measures are effective in providing social safeguards to the Singapore society or whether they are merely ‘cosmetic measures’ to appease the antagonists of the Integrated Resorts projects, it is still too early to conclude but the surveys conducted by the authorities and the reports so far seem to suggest that things are under control.

2.7 Conclusion

Over the years, several literatures have been written about the effectiveness and controversy of the casinos in generating economic wealth and many theories on the gaming industry and gambling behaviour have been put forward and challenged.

While Christiansen and Brinkerhof (1997) viewed gambling as a recreation outlet and the present manifestation of an evolution of entertainment and leisure products, Goodman (1995) views it as a ‘vice with limited or tainted consumer value’.

Grinols and Omorov (1996) put forward the view that gambling is an example of a socially unproductive profit-seeking activity as gamblers, whose main motivation for gambling is to increase their economic well-being, are wasting their time due to the reality that they would usually lose in the long run. Research by Leone et al. (2000) measuring benefits/costs to all adults within 35 miles of a casino in US have shown that social benefits derived from casinos are less than USD40 per adult per annum compared to the social cost of between USD100 to USD150 that the state have to swallow every year.

In showing how organized crime and transnational crime syndicates permeate in the casino industry and how the problem of money laundering, loan sharking and crime rackets could be countered from the Asian perspective, works from Leong (2004) and Hing (2005), who did their separate researches on the crime syndicates linked to the casino operations in Macau conclude that though the relationship between government and gaming can bring in benefits, the previous monopoly structure gave no incentive for improvement and created the environment that promotes the infiltration of organized crime. However, in addressing this issue, the authority’s subsequent use of market competition turned out to be an effective strategy in improving casino management and containing the spread of organized crime in the city-state.

In concluding this Chapter on literature reviews, it is worth mentioning that some studies arrived at conclusions about crime rates without actually analyzing the relativity of crime rates (Albanese, 2008). Instead of analyzing the types of offenses, arrest statistics were used simplistically without discussing the problems inherent in using arrest rates. However, it is also worth highlighting that many studies and research conducted by academics and research centres in some part of the world are agenda driven and funded by either pro-gambling or law enforcement organizations (Grinols & Mustard, 2006). The objectivity of these researches would inevitably be questioned especially if the government is in support of the casino industry.


3.1 Introduction

To ensure that the research is objective and triangulated, a combination of both quantitative and qualitative methods of research was employed. This was also to increase the study credibility as advocated by Hussein (2009). For the quantitative part of the research, primary data was collected through structured questionnaire survey which was then compared against the secondary data collected from the surveys conducted by the Singapore government.

In triangulating the results, research from local and international newspaper journals, academic papers, forum discussions, government reports and international business reviews were used to validate/challenge the findings from a quantitative and a qualitative perspective. To reduce research biases, which Nickerson (1998) describes as “the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs, expectations or a hypothesis in hand” and provide confidence on the reliability of the data collected, attempts have also been made to ensure that questionnaire surveys and samplings collected are as representative as possible from the general population in Singapore. These will be supported with secondary data from government agencies and commercial enterprises as well as social community groups. Observations and market analysis using Porter’s Five-Forces, SWOT and PESTEL will be adopted to provide deeper insights into the concept of Integrated Resorts as a marketing platform for the casino industry in Singapore both from a social and a commercial perspective.

3.2 Research Methodology

To establish whether the two Integrated Resorts in Singapore have effectively generated more wealth, created more jobs and increased tourist visits and spending in Singapore, the following research methods were employed:

a) Reviewing the data from the annual reports of Singapore Tourism Board and comparing them before and after 2010 to look at the number of tourists visiting Singapore and the spending patterns.
b) Reviewing government reports and data from Department of Statistics, Ministry of Manpower and the tax authority to compare the tax revenue collected from Integrated Resorts and the casinos, GDP growth and employment figures before and after 2010.
To examine the costs and social impact of the casinos, the following research methods were used:
a) Examination of data collected by Ministry of Social and Family Development and National Council on Problem Gambling.
b) Interpretation and analysis of crime statistics in Singapore from 2009 (before the opening of the casinos) to 2010 (when the casinos were opened) to 2012 (two years after the casinos were opened).
c) Collation of media reports on casino-related crimes and news articles on social problems arose from casino gambling.
d) Questionnaire survey.

As the public’s perception on the casino industry in Singapore plays an influencing role in shaping the future direction of this industry in Singapore, the use of secondary data collected through the public survey conducted by National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) together with the primary data collected by the writer through surveys is key to this research study. In addition to this, the most current survey on the Perceptions and Attitudes towards Gambling Issues in Singapore was conducted back in 2007 by the NCPG. As such, the writer felt that it was necessary that a small-scale questionnaire survey be conducted to compare whether the perceptions have changed in today’s context.

Another point to note is that surveys on participation patterns in gambling activities among Singapore residents were conducted by NCPG in 2008 and 2011. This may also have evolved over the last 2 years when the casino operations became more established and fully commissioned. As such, the rationale behind the need for this survey is as follow:

1. Perceptions and attitudes towards this issue may have evolved over time (a period of five years!).
2. The only two surveys by NCPG on perceptions and attitudes towards gambling in 2006 and 2007 were conducted before both Integrated Resorts were opened in 2010. Perceptions and attitudes towards casinos before they started operation and after they started could have shifted.
3. Participation patterns in gambling activities among Singapore residents were monitored in 2008 and 2011. These patterns may change with the maturity of the two casinos in Singapore.

3.3 Sample Selection and Demographics

A total of 100 Singapore citizens/residents were invited to participate in this survey of which 75 responded. Participants invited include: working professionals from public sectors (which include police officers and military personnel), banking industry, manufacturing industry, aerospace industry, hospitality industry, homemakers, odd job workers, self-employed, blue collar workers and students.

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Figure 3.3A

Effort was made as far as possible to ensure that the participants invited for the survey are representative of the current Singapore population’s ethnic composition which comprise 74.2% Chinese, 13.3% Malay, 9.2% Indian and 3.3% Other Race (Singapore Department of Statistics, 2012), the responses from the Malay population was very much lower. This could be due to the fact the survey was conducted during the fasting month of Ramada where most of the Muslim community in Singapore were very busy with their preparations and house visits.

90.7% of respondents are Singapore citizens while 9.3% are Singapore permanent residents (Figure 3.3B).

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Figure 3.3 B

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Figure 3.3C

While the youngest participant was 17 years old and the oldest was above 60 years old, most of the respondents fall within the age group of 30-39. One thing to note is that majority of the respondents fall within the income group of SGD4, 000 and above which is above the median national income (SGD3,000) of the Singapore population (Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, 2013).

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Figure 3.3D

Another area to take note of is the majority of the respondents are working professionals holding executive/administrative positions (72 %) which may differ slightly from the general demographics of the Singapore population and the highest education level attained by most respondents in this survey holds a university degree and above (56%) which is much higher than the general population of 24.5%.

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Figure 3.3E

3.4 Survey Administration Methods

The survey was conducted through two methods. The first method was conducted electronically through an online survey platform. For the first batch of 50 invitations sent out for the online survey through e-mail on the first week, only 15 of them responded to the surveys. One of the possible reasons is that some recipients probably thought that the e-mail request for the survey was a spam as the e-mail invitation did not specify clearly the intent of the survey and simply requests participants to click on an attached link that leads to the online survey. This could have caused some concerns as most people are worried about malicious virus links that could be disguised as survey requests.

A second batch of invitations for another 50 participants was sent out on the second week. This time, the e-mail clearly stated the background of the e-mail sender with contact details, survey objectives, as well as an assurance that it is a legitimate survey request and the resultant response rate improved significantly. In total, out of the 100 participants invited for the online survey, a response rate of 39% was achieved.

The second method was through direct administering of the questionnaires to 40 selected participants. From the 40 questionnaires that were given out, only 38 were returned and 2 of the 38 were rejected for missing entries or incomplete response (90% response rate). The total response rate for the entire survey conducted for this dissertation study was 53%.

3.5 Potential Research Biases and Mitigating Factors

Due to the fact that the survey was conducted on the topic of perception of casino gambling as well as gambling participation behaviours, the writer recognizes that there is a strong potential of social desirability bias affecting the respondents. To mitigate this, surveyors were asked to assure interviewees on the strict confidentiality of individual responses at the start of the survey. For the online surveys, a pre-survey note was included at the start before the commencement of the survey to assure respondents that the responses will be kept completely confidential.

To guard against confirmation bias that may affect the researcher himself, the writer also ensured that the data collected are checked against those collected by the National Council on Problem Gambling for consistency and relevance to the Singapore society.

3.6 Research Weaknesses and Limitations

One of the weaknesses recognized in this research is the representativeness of the selected participants against the actual demographics of the Singapore population. As the population sample was drawn from the writer’s circle of friends and colleagues from his previous and current careers in law enforcement, banking and aerospace industries, a large percentage of his available contacts invited for this research are middle-age working professionals belonging to the middle income group.

In addition to this, the small sample size in this survey is also one of the limitations in this research that may put reliability into question. To highlight in particular some of the under- represented sample clusters: there was only 1 participant who is unemployed, 1 retiree and 2 homemakers in the entire survey population of 75. The perceptions from this category of participants on casino gambling and its social impact may differ drastically from working professionals belonging to the higher income group who may view casino gambling as an activity of enjoyment and leisure rather than gambling. The writer acknowledged that with only 1 or 2 respondents representing this category of the population, their views may be under-represented.

Finally, the reliability of online surveys has often been debated as they are not always necessarily responded by the invited participants themselves as no one really can see who is the person typing on the keyboard behind the computer, and online survey links sent out to participants can be easily forwarded to anyone.

3.7 Conclusion

To ensure consistency and reliability of research, the 2013 primary data on perceptions on gambling and casino and the social impacts collected by the writer was compared against the secondary data collected by the National Council on Problem Gambling in 2006 and 2007 to check for patterns of evolving change in perceptions. Further research into news articles, journals, reports written on casino gambling, crimes and social issues relating to casinos in Singapore were also used to triangulate or challenge the findings.


4.1 Introduction

There are two key objectives in this chapter which will be focusing on addressing the five research questions:

1. What are the current and future stumbling blocks faced by the casino operators in Singapore?
2. Can the significant contributions made by the two Integrated Resorts to the current Singapore economy continue to be sustainable in the near future?
3. Do the benefits outweigh the costs?
4. What are the social and criminal problems generated by the casino industry and can these be controlled?
5. Will the growing competitiveness of the casino industry in Asia affect the evolving landscape of the Integrated Resorts in Singapore?

The first is to analyze the primary data collected from the questionnaire survey administered by the writer against the secondary data collected by the National Council on Problem Gambling in 2006 and 2007. This is to look at any changing perception and attitude towards gambling in general, before and after the introduction of the casinos in Singapore. It is interesting to note that the National Council on Problem Gambling conducted 2 similar surveys in 2006 and 2007 to collect feedback from Singapore residents on their perceptions on gambling before the casinos were opened in 2010 and yet till today, there has been no follow-up similar survey to determine or measure whether there is any change of perceptions and attitudes towards gambling after the introduction of the casinos. It is essential to examine this issue closely as any shift in the core beliefs system in the traditionally conservative Singapore society, could eventually translate into a paradigm shift in the way Singapore continues to reinvent itself in future and that would provide some clarity to both Question 1 and 2 of the research objectives. From a political and social standpoint, if the majority of the Singapore population perceives and accepts casino gambling as part of an entertainment and leisure activity in the Integrated Resort concept, the government may see this as a mandate to this model of economic strategy and further expands on it. With only 2 casinos, Singapore has already won itself a podium position as the world’s third biggest earner in the casino industry, losing to Vegas, which has 122 casinos (Loi & Kim, 2010) just by a nose in last year’s ranking. Undoubtedly, if the Singapore government decides to add another two more casinos to the current number, it is likely to overtake Vegas as the World Number Two. And with more competitors entering into this privileged arena, the slice of the cake would definitely become much smaller for the current two casino operators, leading us to analyze on Question 5 of our research.

The second objective is to examine the general Singapore public’s view of whether the casino industry has indeed brought wealth and economic growth to Singapore without being overshadowed by the social problems that come along with it. These views are important as they were the reasons why there were so many control measures put in place to prevent Singapore residents from frequenting the casinos. These views can influence and shape the future direction of the casino business in Singapore through government interventions and operating parameters laid around this industry as the government seeks the people’s support and endorsement in the way the country is being run. This would help us address Questions 3 and 4 of this research study.

4.2 Results

Results from the survey conducted yielded an interesting mix of patterns in perceptions on casino gambling as well as attitudes towards gambling and views on social impact brought along by the casinos. Though the writer’s survey conducted for this study shows that the patterns of perceptions were generally consistent with the surveys conducted in 2006 and 2007 by the NCPG, it appears that certain perception has changed after the casinos were introduced in Singapore. This will be examined and analyzed in detail in this chapter.

4.3 Analysis

Singapore Residents’ Perception of Gambling Activities Respondents were given a list of 5 activities and asked whether they view each activity as ‘gambling’ or ‘leisure’ activities. The responses were compared against some of the data collected by NCPG in 2006 and 2007 to examine whether there is a change in perception before and after the casinos were introduced in Singapore.

From Table 1, it is clear that the Singapore population generally still recognize gambling activities as what they were before and after the casinos were introduced.

Table 1

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*NCPG - Source from National Council on Problem Gambling 2006/2007

*Survey - Data collected through surveys conducted by the writer for this research

General Perceptions towards the Behaviour of Gambling

For this section, respondents were asked whether they agree or disagree with some general statements to assess their attitude and acceptance in gambling behaviour. For Question 2, it is interesting to see that there is a significant increase in perception that gambling eventually leads to financial loss after the casinos were opened in 2010. This could be a result of more media reports highlighting the negative impacts of casinos in Singapore. An independent online poll conducted in 2012 by Yahoo! indicated that more than 50% of the 301 participants voted that casinos in Singapore have created more social problems than the benefits they brought in (Kai Fong, 2012).

Questions 5 and 6 were designed to test for consistency in this perception as it is confirms that less people feel that gambling would lead to financial gain or could help to clear debts.

Table 2

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*NCPG - Source from National Council on Problem Gambling 2006/2007

*Survey - Data collected through surveys conducted by the writer for this research

Specific Beliefs & Awareness about Gambling

There are not many changes in perception in this section of the survey except for the slight increase in people thinking that gamblers should not be afraid to take risks.

Table 3

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*NCPG - Source from National Council on Problem Gambling

*Survey - Data collected through surveys conducted by the writer for this research

Perceiving Gambling as Skill-Based Rather Than a Game of Chance

In this section, it is not surprising that there is an increase in perception that some forms of gambling are skill-based. With the highly publicised opening of the casinos in 2010, most people would have either visited the casinos or at least develop an interest in understanding the various types of gaming options in the casinos. Although most games in the casinos are generally games of chance designed with the odds stacked way up high against the gamblers, the table games are known to be the best bets in terms of using skills, mathematics and logic to reduce the odds of losing (Matarese, 2013). Therefore with 39% of respondents having this perception that it is possible to win lots of money if one is skilful enough especially in table games in casinos, it shows that there is greater awareness in casino games now than before.

Table 4

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*NCPG - Source from National Council on Problem Gambling 2006/2007

*Survey - Data collected through surveys conducted by the writer for this research

Attitude towards Gambling

This section examines respondents’ attitude towards gambling. The behaviour mentioned in the specific statement a common observation in typical casinos and the increase in this behaviour after 2010 is not surprising. Studies by Wagenaar (1988) have shown that although most gamblers know they are most likely to lose and that the gambling industry makes huge profits, they will not as a result, stop gambling. This irony and paradox is further exacerbated by the fact that habitual gamblers are the least likely to stop gambling although they are the ones who are most aware that systematic losses cannot be avoided.

Wagenaar’s research on gambling behavior also shows that many gamblers are victims of a variety of cognitive illusions, which lead them to believe that the general statistical logics determining the probability of loss do not apply to them as individuals. It has been commonly observed in casinos that if a gambler is seen to be winning lots of money from certain jackpot machines, many other people will jump onto the same machines to try their luck, thinking that the machines are easier to conquer. Casino operators who design jackpot machines with attention-attracting visuals and sound effects of the gaming machines cleverly exploit these illusions to promote a false perception of the situation. The 10% increase in respondents agreeing with Question 1 shows that this behaviour has not changed and is also a reason why the casino industry is such a lucrative business.

The responses to Questions 2 and 3 demonstrate an expected typical attitude of face-saving culture among most Asians which is what worries the Singapore government and contributed to the recent introduction of a new set of social safeguards for financially vulnerable locals who visit the casinos regularly (Ministry of Social and Family Development, 2013).

Table 5

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*NCPG - Source from National Council on Problem Gambling 2006/2007

*Survey - Data collected through surveys conducted by the writer for this research

Perceptions about Problem Gambling

This section examines respondents’ perception on problem gambling and the social problems in Singapore. The NCPG was set up in 2005 to monitor and manage problem gambling and gambling addictions in Singapore following the government's decision to legalise casino gambling and build two integrated resorts at Marina Bay and Sentosa. Though one of the main objectives of the NCPG is to educate the public and to assure them that gambling addiction can be treated effectively, it is ironic that the general population do not share the same view and this opinion has grown stronger lately as more cases relating to gambling addictions are being reported in the news.

Table 6

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*NCPG - Source from National Council on Problem Gambling 2006/2007

*Survey - Data collected through surveys conducted by the writer for this research

Economic Benefits versus Social Problems & Increase Crimes Brought By Casinos

In examining Tables 7 and 8 together, it is clear that most respondents do not disagree that the casinos have brought in wealth, employment and economic benefits to Singapore as it has been widely reported that the casino industry in Singapore has brought in revenues of more than USD 6 billion in 2011 and by 2012, both casinos in Singapore has already contributed

1.5% - 2% to Singapore’s GDP (Naidu, 2013). In terms of employment, both resorts are also accounted for 1.8% of employment in the country. However, from the responses in Table 8, we can see that a significant number of respondents felt that crime (63% agree) and social problem (80% agree) have increased and the majority of people (61% of respondents) still feel that the negative social impact of casinos have outweighed the economic benefits we are getting. And this negative opinion still continue to exist despite the government’s effort in setting up the NCPG, Casino Regulatory Authority and the tightening of laws relating to casinos.

Table 7

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*Survey - Data collected through surveys conducted by the writer for this research

Table 8

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*Survey - Data collected through surveys conducted by the writer for this research

To examine whether this perception is consistent with the statistics, a comparison is made from the crime statistics (Singapore Police Force, 2013) in Singapore by looking at 2009 (before the casinos were open) and then at 2012 (2 years after the casinos were open). When we compare the crime situation in Singapore from 2009) to 2012, the overall crime rate actually dropped by 6.98%, showing a very rosy picture of the current crime situation in Singapore. However, when we scrutinize the breakdown of the six crime classes from 2009 to 2012, the number of ‘Miscellaneous Crimes’ has actually increased from 3184 in 2009 to 4166 in 2012 while the rest have dropped, a significant increase of 38.84%. As ‘Miscellaneous Crimes’ is a category that captures all other offences not defined under

“Violent Property Crimes’; ‘Housebreaking & Relating Crimes’; ‘Theft & Related Crimes’, ‘Commercial Crimes’ and ‘Crimes Against Persons’, it is difficult to validate whether ‘Miscellaneous Crimes’ are directly or indirectly related to casino gambling.

In the eyes of the government, no matter what rosy pictures the statistics can show, people’s perception still matters most as this demonstrates the overall confidence of the Singapore population on the way the social issues are being addressed and the country being managed by the government and being a democratic society, would very much shape the future direction of the casino industry.

Crime Statistics in Singapore for 2009 & 2010.

*Source: Statistics-Crime Situation 2009/2010 (Singapore Police Force, 2013)

Crime Statistics in Singapore for 2011 & 2012

*Source: Statistics-Crime Situation 2011/2012 (Singapore Police Force, 2013)

4.4 Conclusion

It is worthy to note that after the opening of the casinos, many high profile crime cases relating to problem gambling in Singapore were highlighted in the news and this could underline the perception that the social and crime problems in Singapore, originates from the casinos. The most recent case of an assistant director at the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) who was charged on July 2013 with misappropriating $1.76 million from the anti-graft agency and gambling away some $241,000 of that amount at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) casino further shaken public’s confidence that the government is doing enough to deal with the crime cases related to casinos (Lee, 2013).

Though statistics presented by the government shows that casino-related crimes are still very low and well under control (Lim, 2012), the definition of what constitutes a casino-related crime is very much subjective and debatable. Must a casino-related crime be committed within the premise of a casino? Or can a robbery committed in a park by a gambler who is unable to pay his debts because he has lost a lot of money in a casino be classified as a casino-related crime? From an ex-law enforcement officer’s perspective, the writer also understands that the police have to deal with hundreds and thousands of cases every year and in the course of an investigation, the police are generally more interested in solving the crime and presenting the evidence in court to charge the offender than to be concerned about social issues. If the criminal’s motivation is established to be debt-driven, it is not in the interest of the police to probe further to find out whether it is casino-related, lottery-related or simply a case of poor financial management of the offender’s lifestyle. This phenomenon was also shared by Albanese (2008) who questions crime statistics used in gambling-related studies that instead of analyzing the types of offenses, arrest statistics were used simplistically without discussing the problems inherent in using arrest rates and that some studies arrived at conclusions about crime rates without actually analyzing the relativity of crime rates.

One also needs to question the impartiality of the surveys conducted by NCPG as they are a government body set up to ensure that problem gambling is effectively managed and controlled in Singapore. Given that the setting up of the NCPG must be seen as an effective strategy by the government to address the public’s concern on social impacts brought along by the casinos, it would be against NCPG’s interest as well as the government’s interest to present a negative outlook of what the general population think of the casinos in Singapore as the NCPG would be judged as an ineffective government body to carry this national responsibility and their set up would be seen as a waste of taxpayer’s money. This conflict of interest was previously highlighted by Grinols & Mustard (2006) who observed that many studies and research conducted by academics and research centres in some part of the world are agenda driven and funded by either pro-gambling or law enforcement organizations.


5.1 Introduction

The research objective of this study is to look at what are the future challenges that the casino business in Singapore may face by the year 2016. Why 2016? The year 2016 is when both casinos’ licenses to operate are due for renewal and it is also the same year when Singapore is due to have its 17th General Election to elect the government. Though it is widely believed that the current dominant political party will continue to win the election and stay as the government, as in many other democracies in other parts of the world, the General Election is often seen as a time where the government is being judged on what it has done well and what it has not. The legalizing of gambling and the introduction of the casinos have been a hotly- debated topic in Singapore since the previous general election and what the future is going to be like for the casino operators would usually become clearer when the government starts to prepare its new 5-year roadmap for the country which must be relevant to the people’s expectations and needs in order to seek the people’s endorsement for the new term. And 2016 is when this new roadmap will determine whether the government continues to support the current model of the Integrated Resorts with casinos or allows more players to enter this controlled industry in Singapore or put in more controls to further reduce the number of Singapore residents to visit the casinos.

In this final chapter, the various possible scenarios of the future casino business in Singapore will be further discussed.

5.2 Addressing the Research Question

The results of the survey and the analysis in Chapter 4 show that there is a mixed sentiment among the general Singapore population on their perceptions on the casino industry. While most people still support the government to have casinos in the country as the significant increase in tourism spending over the last 3 years (see Exhibit 1) and the jobs created from the Integrated Resorts are indications that this is the right formula for Singapore’s future growth, there are also concerns of increase in crimes and the not-so-publicly-visible social implications which may outweigh the benefits and erode the values of our society.

Source: Singapore Tourism Board (2013)

The Dichotomy of Strong Government Support and Lowering of Barrier to Entry

Currently, the tourism sector contributes 4 percent to Singapore’s GDP and supports 160,000 jobs (Singapore Tourism Board, 2013) and this significant contribution is likely to continue to be supported by the government. The question here is how much support is seen as ideal to the current casino operators? The casino operators would love to continue to enjoy the duo-poly privilege granted by the Singapore authority for their business investment in the country. By 2016 when both their contracts are due for renewal, will the game change? Will the success of the Singapore Integrated Resorts motivate the government to increase the number of Integrated Resorts to twice or thrice the current number by lowering the barrier of entry for the other casino players to enter into the competition? If that becomes reality, it could mean a significant loss of revenue to the current casino operators as they would have to share the pie with the new entrants.

Limited Local Market

Locals account for 25 to 30 percent of casino visitors in Singapore and the SGD100 levy or SGD2000 annual membership imposed by the Singapore authority has already limited the casino operator’s revenue substantially. Apart from advertisement bans and additional safeguards introduced this year to reduce visit frequencies of low income earners to only once a month, about 100,000 locals have so far been banned from visiting casinos, because of problem gambling (Naidu, 2013). There have also been public suggestions to increase the entry levies to further discourage local visitors. With the recent news report of more casinorelated crimes involving civil servants in debt, the government is further reviewing to tighten the control measures to another level, i.e. to ban all civil servants from visiting the casinos. This would further shrink the local market size to a point where the casino operators really have to look beyond attracting the local population.

Intensifying Regional Competition and Long Term Sustainability

While Thailand, Japan and Philippines are seriously considering to enter into this competition (Naidu, 2013), both Macau and South Korea have recently already announced plans to open new integrated resorts (Singapore Tourism Board, 2013). This would mean stiffer competition within the Asia Pacific region for the casino operators in Singapore who may find it more and more difficult to rely on foreign visitors. From the perspective of the Singapore government, this may also threaten the long-term sustainability of the economic benefits that the two Integrated Resorts have been bringing in for the past 3 years. To address this, the government could either open a few more Integrated Resorts by attracting more players to come in, or they could relax the control measures on local visitors to encourage the IR operators to stay on.

Benefits versus Costs

Though the Singapore government has been continuously reassuring the public that casinorelated crimes are well under control and the benefits that the IR has brought to Singapore outweighs the cost of social impact, the general local population clearly do not share the same perception, as demonstrated in the survey conducted. From the government’s perspective, the people’s perception would need to be corrected quickly or their dissatisfactions may be translated into votes for the opposition parties in the next General Election.

From the above discussions, we can confidently conclude that the casino industry in Singapore will face some major challenges as 2016 comes closer, as the direction of this industry in Singapore is not only challenged by the growing competitiveness in the Asia Pacific Region, its growth potential for the local market is also very much dependent on government policies and the social influence.

5.3 Research Limitations & Future Research

NCPG carried out only 2 surveys back in 2006 and 2007 to find out about Singapore residents’ awareness and perception of gambling and casinos and another two surveys in 2008 and 2011 to look at participation patterns in gambling activities among Singapore residents. With these gaps, it is timely that another national survey be conducted to take temperature of the public’s opinion of casino gambling in Singapore. For the national survey to be seen as reliable and objective, it is also recommended that the next survey be conducted by an independent agency for proper check and balance.

For the national crime statistics in Singapore, the writer feels that more could be improved in the crime statistics collated by the Singapore Police Force. With so much national interest and concerns about casino-related crimes, the Singapore police should consider adding this category of crimes in addition to their traditional six categories of crime classifications and defining what are casino-related crimes in their annual crime report so as to provide a clearer picture to the public.

From a research angle, the writer also recognizes that the survey conducted on his population sample size of 75 respondents can put the reliability and representativeness of the survey findings to question. As such, a much bigger sample size is recommended for future research on this topic to validate the findings from this dissertation study.

From a literature review perspective, though there were several research conducted and academic journals written about casino gambling in the US, Canada, Europe and Macau, limited research studies have been conducted about casinos in the new concept of Integrated Resorts in South East Asia region, especially Singapore. As noted by Loi and Kim (2010), the gaming and entertainment preferences between the east and the west are significantly apart.

Another observation made during this study is that putting in tighter control measures against local residents visiting casinos may not be entirely effective in reducing social problems and crimes in Singapore as a large percentage of the workforce in Singapore are foreign workers on long-term work permits who are not affected by the levy imposed on local Singapore residents visiting casinos. These foreigners are as vulnerable to the same risks associated with casino gambling as any locals and therefore their frequency of visits to the casinos should also be subjected to some similar form of controls.

5.4 Conclusion

In summary, it is irrefutable that the entry levies imposed by the casino authority and the stricter control measures put in place by the government will continue to be a stumbling block for the casino operators in Singapore from now till 2016.

The economic contributions to Singapore from these two Integrated Resorts are expected to remain strong and sustainable till at least the next General Election in 2016, given the current political and social landscapes remain unchanged.

Do the benefits of having casinos in Singapore outweigh the costs of having them? Perceptually, this will continue to be a heavily debated topic though the survey conducted for this dissertation study (refer to Table 8) shows that 61% of the sample population do not see that benefits have outweighed the social costs. However, as highlighted in Chapter 5.3, further research would need to be done in order to validate this.

Can the social and criminal problems generated by the casino industry be controlled? Absolutely not a major issue. Historically, Singapore has been well known for its very strict laws and effective governance in controlling crimes and maintaining a clean image of its social environment. As a matter of fact, beggars and vagabonds can be hardly seen in Singapore nowadays as it is an offence punishable by law under the Destitute Persons Act and the Miscellaneous Offences - Public Order and Nuisance Act (Statutes of Singapore, 2013b).

Will the growing competitiveness of the casino industry in Asia affect the evolving landscape of the Integrated Resorts in Singapore? Highly likely. With the Singapore government already committed to this long-term project, they would need to find a way to maintain and develop this symbiotic relationship between the two existing casino operators and the government amidst these challenges. The Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resorts has already made plans (if granted by the government) to further expand its total resort size so that its 3% floor space of the entire resort area allotted by the government for casino operations can grow proportionately together.

In concluding this dissertation study, besides the limited public information on casino-related crime statistics and casino-related family breakdowns, one of the disappointments and regrets in this research study is the limited research sources/data available in the Singapore public domain which could have made this research more in-depth, interesting and robust. Information such as the average spending of a Singapore resident visiting the casinos, the most popular game played in Singapore casinos, the demographic profile of Singapore residents frequenting casinos, the percentage of local casino visitors seeking help from NCPG were all not available.

Still, despite the challenges faced, this study has more than adequately addressed the research objective and answered to all the research questions. However, with the changing political landscape in Singapore and the growing global competitiveness in the entertainment, gaming and tourism industry, it is recommended that further study on the casinos and the Integrated Resorts be conducted.


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Figure 1 - Hypothetical Evolution of a Tourist Area (Butler, 2000; McCartney, 2005)

Introducing casino

and theme parks to redevelop




(Source: Singapore Tourism Promotion Board Arrival Statistics 2012)



We are conducting this survey to seek your views on gambling and the positive/negative impact brought in by the casino industry in Singapore. This survey is performed for the purpose of academic research. Your sincere and candid response will contribute to this study by providing future research a snapshot of the general public’s perception of how the casino industry has shaped our economy and our society.

Your responses will be completely confidential. If you have any questions, feel free to contact


(Academic Division) at: We would greatly appreciate your time and

cooperation in completing this 10-minute questionnaire. Thank you very much.

1. Which of the following would you consider as gambling activities and which would you consider as leisure activities? (Tick on either ‘Gambling’ or ‘Leisure’):

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2. Tick on either ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ with the following general statements:

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3. Tick on either ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ with the following general statements:

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4. Tick on either ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ with the following general statements:

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5. Tick on either ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ with the following specific statements:

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6. Tick on either ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ with the following specific statements:

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8. Tick on either ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ with the following specific statements:

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9. Tick on either ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ with the following specific statements:

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10. Tick on either ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ with the following specific statements:

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11. Tick on either ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ with the following specific statements:

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Demographic Characteristics

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ISBN (Book)
File size
865 KB
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Institution / College
University of Wolverhampton
will singapore




Title: Will the casino business face difficult challenges in Singapore by 2016?