Singapore advertising changes; Macau’s Hengqin hopes; Borneo gambling bust

singapore-advertising-changesFurther light has been shed on the new advertising and promotional restrictions imposed on Singapore’s two integrated resort casinos. In future, all such marketing efforts by Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa will require prior approval by the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA). The changes have been made to ensure the casinos don’t target the ‘domestic market’ – the definition of which now includes not only native Singaporeans but also Permanent Residents and foreign workers residing in Singapore.

The CRA’s definition of advertising has been expanded to include merchandising, and casino websites can no longer feature reports of big winners. Membership reward programs, contests and lucky draws that require people to gamble to qualify are also off limits. Violations of any of the new regs will bring fines of up to $100k, and Acting Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing says Singapore “will not hesitate to take the casino operators to task should they contravene the regulations. The casinos are meant to be tourist products and should remain so.” A government survey of Singaporeans’ gambling habits will be released early next year.

Casino operators in Macau are hoping for big things from the development on the neighboring island of Hengqin. While no gambling will be allowed on the island, it’s hoped Hengqin’s mainstream attractions – including a 5.8 sq. km international business district, Asia’s largest water theme park and the world’s largest whale and shark aquarium – will help broaden Macau’s appeal beyond the hardcore gambling crowd and thus lessen its dependence on the VIP gambler segment (currently providing 70% of Macau’s revenue). Already connected to Macau by bridge, an undersea tunnel from Hengqin will open in 2012.

Police in the East Malaysian (Borneo) city of Kota Kinabalu have busted what they claim was an illegal online gambling operation. Police received a tip about the operation, which had been set up in a shop at Likas Plaza only a week ago. While the police seized 12 computers (but only 11 chairs), the only employee they nabbed was a caretaker, who is reportedly assisting police in their search for the owners (as well as that elusive 12th chair).

Sticking with East Malaysia, the state government in Sarawak has rubbished suggestions that gambling outfits like Telelink/Da Ma Cai will be granted licenses to operate in the state, even if they offer to cut the government in for part of the action. “It is not about paying tax or not paying tax,” said Minister of Local Government and Community Development Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, who promised illegal operators would face ‘more drastic actions’ if they continued to flout the law. “The state cabinet has decided that enough is enough and no more new gambling operator is allowed. Telelink happened to be the new one so we cannot allow it to operate.”