Thursday, March 22, 2012

CRA awards licences to two junket operators

SINGAPORE: Singapore authorities have introduced new rules to allow casino operators here to extend their international reach through junket operators, but at the same time ensuring that they do not target locals and permanent residents.

Two operators have been issued licences after a series of stringent checks which lasted more than a year.

Junket operators are essentially "tour agents" for high rollers. They offer perks such as free stays and travel by private jet to entice these clients to casinos.

In turn, the operators receive commission from the casinos.

This is the first time junket operators have been issued licences since casinos started operating in Singapore in 2010.

The two are Huang Yu Kiung and Low Chong Aun - both Malaysian operators with an international client base.

Twelve other operators were rejected.

The licence is valid for only a year.

Authorities said junket operators have to comply with strict rules in Singapore as they are meant to "supplement" and not "dominate" the casino market.

Before they receive their licences, operators are subjected to checks such as onsite visits. Interviews are conducted and their financial accounts scrutinised to verify their sources of funding.

The law has also been tightened with rules and terms unique to Singapore. Among them, referring to junket operators as International Market Agents (IMAs) - a reference to the fact that these agents should target only the international market and not Singaporeans or PRs.

Greater onus is placed on casino operators which have to submit a due diligence report on the IMAs when endorsing them.

Casino operators are also responsible for the activity of these IMAs.

Licenced IMAs cannot share commission with unlicenced ones.

Authorities (the Casino Regulatory Authority) also have the power to cease issuing licenses, should it be in the public interest to do so.

Chief executive of the CRA, Mr Lau Peet Meng said: "We have decided to use the term 'International Market Agents (IMAs)' to more accurately describe what these agents do. They will focus on bringing in foreign high rollers to our casinos, and they will not target our locals.

"CRA has put in place a tight regulatory regime for the IMAs, and we have every intent to exercise our powers to ensure the casino operators and IMAs comply fully with our regulatory requirements."

Hri Kumar Nair, chair, Government Parliamentary Committee, Law and Home Affairs, said: "This is very new to us. We will probably have to work things out as we go along but I think as a starting measure, the fact that you have the Casino Regulatory Authority, the casino operator involved, the licences are short and that we are only issuing two licenses, I think it's a good start.

"It enables us to assess the ground, assess the operations and then see if we could expand going forward."

The CRA said it is currently evaluating a few other applications and is in the midst of conducting probity checks for these applications.

Authorities said they've taken a conservative approach to ensure that Singapore has a robust regulatory regime.

Further changes are expected to the Casino Control Act to ensure social safeguards are in place. For example, there are plans to amend the Act to clearly state that junket operators should not target Singaporeans.

- CNA/cc

View the original article here

Source From Channel News Asia

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