As casinos around the world find themselves coming under the economic pressures of increased competition Singapore’s parliament debates a new gambling bill.
As the US gears itself up for the mid-term elections this November and the future candidates for president of the most powerful nation on Earth all jockey for position well before the starting gun sounds, the future of gambling in some US states is in the balance to varying degrees. Perhaps the most notable is the possible repeal of the legalization of gambling in Massachusetts which could yet scupper the plans of Steve Wynn for his $1.6 billion casino project outside Boston.
Singapore Debates Casinos
• MP demands end to legal gambling
• Economic realities too hard to resist?
• Mobile betting to be licensed under new bill
Of course polling shows the people are unlikely to vote on the ballot to get rid of gambling in the state but it could be a closer run thing that expected as the recent arrest on federal charges of some land owners involved in the sale of a site to Mr. Wynn is heavily used as ammunition by the anti-gambling lobby who say it is an example of how criminal activity taints gambling. Will this be enough to sway public opinion in this case? Probably not, but it does show people are still open to being swayed.
Gambling is not a cut and dried acceptable activity despite so many of us liking to bet on sports in the US, or occasionally visit the casinos that now litter the Northeastern part of America like the illegitimate children of shopping malls and sports stadiums, and if it is still a question under debate in the home of freedom and democracy TM the rest of the world is no more certain about an industry that still suffers from historical connotations and religious intolerance.
The popular image is, of course, that the Far East is a hotbed of gambling with the gleaming spires of Macau and the racecourses of Hong Kong blinding people to the rather conservative nature of some of the surrounding countries, many of whom are now scrambling to change centuries of social attitudes and laws to take advantage of the huge Chinese gambling market that has opened up. However even as they do so, some amongst them voice concerns and objections.
MP Urges Rethink On Gambling
In the former British colony of Singapore, which has long seen rapid economic development and indeed was one of the four original Asian Tiger Economies, and the only Asian country to gain a AAA rating from all three major credit rating agencies, there are debates afoot on the subject of gambling as laws pass through their Westminster-esque parliamentary system, a process that has produced some highly supportive statements and some that are far less positive.
“When will Singapore wean itself off the casino industry?” demanded Ms. Denise Phua, Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP, of parliament on Tuesday in a speech that did much to raise some of the issues that do not just effect casinos in Singapore but the gambling industry as a whole wherever it might be operating. From staffing issues to the moral dimension Ms Phua did well to cover all the bases in what some see as a battle between capitalism and conservatism.
She complained that a decade after the government of Singapore had legalized casinos in the country it should be realized they had “made the fateful decision” entirely “for the sake of jobs in an economic recession” which sounds a little too familiar for some state legislators in the US to not worry about. Atlantic City’s Revel Casino was hailed as a savor of the local economy and look what has become of that now, a bargain basement purchase.
Like US casinos Ms. Phua worried that the Singapore casino industry would suffer in profitability due to the rapidly increasing number of alternatives in the region. As US states that border each other fight for catchment area and customer numbers so Singapore stands to lose out from a rise in competitors. “Reduce the casinos from two to one to nil, especially in light of new potential entrants such as Japan and other Asian countries” she argued.
Bill Avoids Total Remote Gambling Ban
“We need a holistic longer-term game plan to reflect our principles and intent.” She made clear, “just as we are bold enough to explicitly stand by principles such as the family is the first port of call for help; that extra marital relationships are not encouraged we need to express our stand on licensed gambling in Singapore, whether online or via bricks-and-mortar casinos.” She said referring to the countries strict moral code and legal framework.
She also made mention of the issues arising from the staffing levels required. “With the tightening of foreign labor in Singapore, have the casinos now become competitors for manpower from our local small and medium enterprises?” Asked Ms. Phua. “If manpower is so precious, why would we divert precious manpower to learn the casino business, whether in physical establishments or online?” And online gambling sites in the US will have to look elsewhere for opportunities.
Some large casino owning interests want a complete ban on internet gambling in the US, Ms. Phua wants the same for Singapore although not to protect her own commercial interests, she demanded a total ban on remote gambling in Singapore saying it wasn’t right for the government to send the message that “remote gambling is fine as long as it is under a state license” which is an accurate if slightly uncharitable description of the current plan.
Ms. Phua’s impassioned address to the Parliament may not have the desired effect with governmental control pretty much ironclad. They claim a “tightly controlled except operator” – a monopoly they’ll hand out to someone – would stop remote gambling going “underground” and prevent it becoming a haven for tax evaders. A the debate rumbles on the fact that Singapore casinos face the same issues as US casinos who operate in a far different market, is very telling.