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Regulators rein in casino advertising

Casino operators in Singapore will now be required to seek approval for all advertising and promotional activities, under new government restrictions.

Last last Friday, the Ministry for Community Development, Youth and Sports expanded the Casino Control (Advertising) regulations for all advertising and promotional activity.

The casinos are now also required to seek approval for all advertising and promotional activities prior to rolling them out.

Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing, told ChannelNews Asia the Casino Control (Advertising) Regulations will be amended to make it clear to the two casinos operating in Singapore that they cannot target the domestic market.

The “domestic market” also includes permanent residents and foreigners working and living in Singapore as well. More announcements on the regulation is expected in due course.

Responding to the new rules, Resorts World Sentosa said as a responsible gaming operator, it respects and seeks to comply with Singapore’s gaming laws and regulations.

“We fully support the amendments and will continue to work closely with the relevant authorities in compliance with the new regulations,” a statement from Resorts World Sentosa, said.

Marina Bay Sands could not be reached for comments at the time of writing.

Local reaction to the move was mixed.

According to Mike Langton, VP of business development and regional sales director at  ADZ, the impact will probably be limited.

However, it makes a loud political statement that the government is actively trying to limit the negative impact of the on local society.

“Banning or controlling ‘membership drives, rewards and loyalty programmes’ and similar marketing tools will only affect the way the casinos compete with each other for local customers and may have little impact on how many locals & PRs actually gamble,” he said.

According to Langton, the ban on shuttle buses announced in September 2010 may have had some impact on the number of low income day-trippers coming in from the heartlands to explore the IRs, but the financial impact was probably limited as it would have cut off only the very low spenders who couldn’t afford the taxi, MRT or bus as there are plenty of transport alternatives for those who really want to gamble.

Anand A V, managing director, Up BrandBuzz, feels the government has always had a grand tradition of after-the-fact and this case is no exception.

“They grant Mcdonald’s 24 hour delivery licenses then move to address obesity and other related health issues through the Health Promotion Board.  The same is in play with the casinos,” he said.

According to him, the casinos are here and Singaporeans already make up more than 60% of the gamblers.

“What MCYS is doing now is after the fact. No regulation on advertising or promotional material is going to affect the ‘inveterate gamblers’, as MM Lee Kuan Yew calls them. I do have one question for MCYS though – how are they going to regulate against the biggest billboard for gambling in Singapore which is the Marina Bay Sands building itself that appears in almost every STB ad, clip or marketing literature?”

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