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Gambling regulation approaches that are fundamentally opposed

Authorities in Singapore and Australia have taken very different approaches to gambling regulation this year, demonstrating just how difficult it can be to develop a model that is appropriate for each individual jurisdiction.

In Singapore, the process of merging the current Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA), which oversees the country's two casinos, and the Gambling Regulatory Unit, which regulates remote gambling services and "fruit machines," into a single body, to be known as the Gambling Regulatory Authority, is currently well underway (GRA). According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the reason for this is the emergence of new technological and global trends, which are better served by bringing regulatory resources together in a single place.

When the Ministry first announced its plans for the new GRA in 2020, it stated that it would "consolidate and optimize gambling regulatory resources within a single agency."

Comparing it with developments in Australia, where state governments in both Victoria and New South Wales are decoupling the regulation of gaming and liquor into separate bodies. In both cases, the response is the result of various inquiries into Crown Resorts, which found that the current regulatory model was diverting critical resources away from casino oversight.

This is why Victorian authorities announced late last year that a new casino and gambling regulator, the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC), would replace the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR), which had been in charge of gaming regulation (VCGLR). There will be a dedicated casino regulation division within the new regulator, which will be solely responsible for Crown Melbourne.

For its section, New South Wales' Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) is being phased out in favor of a standalone casino regulator, with the state's Minister for Digital and Customer Service, Victor Dominello, declaring last year that a "redesigned regulatory structure for casinos in NSW" was required, with "a clearer focus on addressing money laundering risks inherently associated with casino activities."

The "improvement" of regulatory resources is typically undertaken as a means of saving money. No gold standard regulatory model exists, but the trend in many jurisdictions is toward consolidation, and gambling regulation has been given extremely low priority in countries such as Australia, where the word "gambling" is still considered a dirty word (despite the billions of dollars in tax revenue that governments reap each year from the industry). Out of sight, out of mind – or at least that was the case until the Crown Resorts scandal threw that notion into turmoil.

This is not to say, however, that consolidation is impossible. Strong leadership and a clear mission statement on what and how a regulatory model will succeed are required for jurisdictions such as Singapore, which is widely regarded as a classic example of how casino resorts can positively transform a city. Singapore is well-positioned to make such streamlining successful. It will take time to see if it can avoid the pitfalls that have been experienced by others.


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