Singapore weighs tighter anti-money laundering rules for casinos

SINGAPORE • The city-state is considering tighter regulations at its casinos in an effort to prevent money laundering and financing for terrorism, according to the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA).

The regulator has already asked casino operators to lower the threshold for cash transactions that are subject to due diligence to S$5,000 (RM15,337), half the current legislated level, a spokesperson said in an emailed response to Bloomberg. Singapore’s formal threshold is much higher than the global standard of US$3,000 (RM12,802) set by the anti-money laundering watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF), according to the CRA.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs and CRA are reviewing the legislative thresholds in the Casino Control Act with a view to lowering these thresholds further to fully comply with the FATF standards,” the CRA said.

Singapore’s casino industry is under the spotlight after Bloomberg reported last week that the US Department of Justice is investigating Marina Bay Sands Pte Ltd, the unit of billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp, over whether anti-money laundering controls were breached in the way it handled the accounts of gamblers.

Marina Bay Sands also faces a probe in Singapore by the CRA into its money transfer policies. Claims about these transfers surfaced in a lawsuit filed last year by Wang Xi, who sued Marina Bay Sands seeking to recover S$9.1 million that he said was sent to other casino patrons in 2015 without his approval. The Singapore police force is also investigating Wang’s complaint, Bloomberg News reported last month.

In its emailed response to Bloomberg about the probes, the Singapore casino said it takes any such allegations seriously. The regulator said it’s “committed to ensuring that the casinos in Singapore, including Marina Bay Sands, remain free from criminal influence or exploitation, and takes a serious view of any allegations of unauthorised money transfers”.

The CRA outlined the changes in due diligence thresholds in response to Bloomberg’s request for comment on the FATF report, which said last year the city-state had inadequate customer due diligence requirements for entities such as casinos and real estate agents. It said “moderate shortcomings are still affecting” the two sectors, without citing any companies.

The FATF report published in November is the third follow-up to the 2016 mutual evaluation report on Singapore.

Last year, the Singapore government agreed to extend licenses to operate casinos held by Gent- ing Singapore Ltd and Las Vegas Sands to 2030, in exchange for pledges to invest a combined S$9 billion in tourism projects. — Bloomberg