Second Reading Speech by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Second Minister for Finance on the Casino Control (Amendment) Bill 200915 Sep 2009
1. Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time".
2. The Bill proposes two main sets of changes to the Casino Control Act: First, improving the administrative process of the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore or IRAS to collect casino taxes; and Second, strengthening our social safeguards for problem gamblers.
Strengthening the Tax Administration Powers
3. Sir, let me now explain the first set of amendments.
4. Since the passing of the Casino Control Act, the Government has done a thorough review and comparison of the Casino Control Act with other tax legislation. We aim to align the administrative powers granted to IRAS under the Casino Control Act with those granted under the Income Tax Act, the Goods and Services Tax Act and the other gambling tax acts, namely the Private Lotteries Act and the Betting and Sweepstakes Duties Act.
5. For example, a proposed new Section 146B will allow the Comptroller to make an assessment of casino tax if the returns from the casino operators are not furnished, incomplete or incorrect. This is similar to Section 45 of the GST Act. Another provision is the proposed new Section 150A, which will allow the Comptroller of Income Tax to appoint a person to be an agent of the casino operator liable to pay tax due on behalf of the casino operator. This is similar to Section 57 of the Income Tax Act. The inclusion of such clauses will empower the Comptroller to administer the collection of casino taxes more efficiently.
Simplifying the Social Safeguard Casino Exclusion Process
6. I will now explain the second set of amendments. As part of the Government's comprehensive social safeguards on casino gambling, the National Council on Problem Gambling (or NCPG, for short) has statutory powers under the Act to exclude Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents aged 21 and above from entering the casinos.
7. There are three types of casino exclusions: Family; Self and Third-Party. Family Exclusion is where a family applies to exclude a family member with gambling problems from casinos. Self-Exclusion is where an individual voluntarily decides to exclude himself or herself from casinos. Third-Party Exclusions cover some 29,000 undischarged bankrupts and beneficiaries of Public Assistance and Special Grant.
8. The NCPG has conducted fairly extensive discussions with the public, stakeholders and its partners on the exclusion process. Following these discussions, it has rolled out the Family Exclusion process in April this year. However, one key feedback it has received is that it should simplify and shorten its Self and Third-Party Exclusion processes so as to more efficiently and effectively protect those who are vulnerable towards problem gambling.
9. The NCPG has recommended three amendments to the Act, which the Government supports:
a. Firstly, to remove the need for a Committee of Assessors to convene and decide on exclusion for Self and Third-Party. There is no need for any judgment or excise of discretion for the decision on such exclusions because Self-Exclusion is voluntary and Third-Party is by fiat. For the same reason, the opportunity to object and appeal against an order for Third-Party Exclusion has been removed.
b. Secondly, to remove the need for hard copy notifications for both Self and Third-Party exclusions. Those who have bankruptcy petitions against them or who are applying for Public Assistance and Special Grant would already be notified of potential casino exclusion as part of the administrative process.
c. And lastly, to enable the Council to notify the casinos, Casino Regulatory Authority and the Police of exclusions via electronic means, as opposed to informing them using paper documents. This will facilitate the administration process for exclusion orders.
10. Once approved, the provisions of the Act will come into force by 15th October 2009.
11. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I beg to move.