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Singapore casinos gambling moderately high risk for laundering: govt

Overall, the money laundering threat to Singapore’s casinos is “moderately high”, according to Singapore’s latest Money Laundering National Risk Assessment report

The report observed that for foreign customers at either of the city’s two casino complexes – Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands – “typically” their source of wealth and source of funds would originate from overseas.

“As there is greater challenge and higher complexity in tracing and obtaining information from overseas, this poses a heightened risk in relation to the casinos’ ability to verify the legitimacy of the funds,” said the assessment.

It was published on Thursday by the Singapore government.

The report said the city-state’s casino sector had remained relatively stable over the years, and as at the end of 2023, the total gaming revenue for the sector’s two casinos gambling was around SGD5.26 billion (US$3.88 billion) .

The update stated that the country’s Financial Intelligence Unit “observed that the majority of STRs [suspicious transaction reports] filed by casinos gambling do not relate to potential money laundering offences and instead involve a suspicion of offences under the Casino Control Act or are filed pursuant to adverse news on casino patrons.”

It added however that the Gambling Regulatory Authority had “imposed a comprehensive anti-money laundering/combatting the financing of terrorism regime for the casinos”.

This had been via statute and regulation, namely the Casino Control Act, the country’s Casino Control Regulations, and the Internal Controls Code.

The report noted other steps to strengthen controls included that: “Casino operators are prohibited from retaining gaming monies of which the purpose and ownership cannot be ascertained within seven days.”

The updated assessment said that “another key money laundering threat” faced by Singapore arises from “foreign organised crime, and in particular illegal online gambling”.

It stated: “In the recent money laundering case, which involved over SGD3 billion worth of seized and prohibited assets, several of the accused persons were convicted of laundering proceeds which were suspected of being the benefits of illegal online gambling from foreign organised criminal groups.”

The update said that police investigations “revealed that these syndicates were funnelling money from illegal online gambling and were associated with Chinese illegal gambling syndicates which operate internationally”. Some of the money had been held in bank accounts in Singapore, it added.

The report said: “Despite strict laws and regulations against online gambling, and multi-pronged enforcement actions, syndicates are still able to conduct illegal online gambling activities due to the ease of setting up or shutting down of an illegal online gambling site.”

According to the document, the ability to host the “illicit websites outside of Singapore makes clamping down on illegal gambling a challenge” for the city-state’s authorities.

It added: “Syndicates are also able to use alternative payment methods such as cryptocurrencies and illegal payment platforms which make the detection of suspicious transactions or money tracing difficult.”

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