Billions Urged for Casinos in Singapore - Monday 3rd of April 2006

by Howard Stutz

Las Vegas Gaming Wire

SINGAPORE Singapore's first casino could become one of the most expensive gaming projects ever constructed, based on statements released Thursday by two of the four companies competing to build a resort complex on a 50-acre waterfront location near the financial district.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. said it would invest $3.6 billion to build the Marina Bay Sands and would have the project open by 2009. Meanwhile, Malaysia-based Genting International PLC, which is bidding on the project with Star Cruises Ltd., said the consortium would spend $3.1 billion to build Singapore Entertainment & Events Destination, or SEED.

Neither MGM Mirage nor Harrah's Entertainment would divulge the prices of their hotel-casino proposals. All four bids were submitted to the Singapore government Wednesday.

The government is expected to award the project at the Marina Bayfront, one of two planned gaming destinations in Singapore, by early summer.

Wynn Las Vegas, at $2.7 billion, is considered the most expensive gaming complex ever built. MGM Mirage's evolving Project CityCenter on the Strip has a $7 billion price, but the plans include high-rise condominiums. Boyd Gaming Corp. announced in January it would replace the aging Stardust with the $4 billion Echelon Place, which would include four hotels encompassing 5,300 rooms.

Factored into the Singapore proposals was the cost for the marina district site, valued at more than $700 million.

John Knott, senior vice president of the CB Richard Ellis Global Gaming Group in Las Vegas, which worked with the Singapore government to establish a price for the now- vacant parcel, thought the proposed costs took into account the desires of Singapore tourism officials who are seeking more than just the average hotel-casino.

"The site is magnificent, as good as there is in the world," Knott said. "It's in the heart of a very modern city. I think the projects being proposed are consistent with what the specific objective the Singapore government had hoped to achieve."

Las Vegas Sands, which operates The Venetian, said its Singapore project would include 2,500 hotel rooms and 1.2 million square feet of space for meetings, conventions and exhibitions. The resort would also have 1 million square feet of retail shops, three entertainment venues and a museum. The casino would include the company's high-end gaming salon.

In a statement, Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson said the project would be aligned with the needs of the Singapore business community.

"As a catalyst for the economic future of Singapore and a launch pad for its tourism industry, the Marina Bay Sands will help Singapore solidify its standing among the world's greatest destinations," Adelson said.

Las Vegas Sands President Bill Weidner said the company, which operates the Sands Macau in China and is building the $2 billion Venetian Macau, already has a strong presence in Asia, which it views as a positive for its prospects in Singapore.

"With an extensive existing footprint in China, one of Asia's primary vehicles for economic growth and the largest source of tourism growth for the foreseeable future, Las Vegas Sands will be able to attract tourists to Singapore by leveraging our extensive global customer base," Weidner said.

In the Genting proposal, the project would include 5,000 rooms and a large convention facility.

MGM Mirage, which has partnered with CapitaLand Ltd. of Singapore, has said little about its proposal, other than announcing an architect and plans for a permanent Cirque du Soliel show.

"We've taken a position of maintaining a confidentiality on the project out of respect for the Singapore government," MGM Mirage spokesman Gordon Absher said.

Harrah's, which has teamed with Keppel Land Ltd. of Singapore, has announced several aspects of its proposal for Caesars Singapore, including an agreement with Asia's leading media and entertainment company, and plans for iPort, a 16-story, 1 million-square-foot entertainment complex in which Academy Award-winning director James Cameron will serve as executive producer.

"We've never publicly disclosed the budget for Marina Bay Caesars Singapore," Harrah's spokesman Alberto Lopez said. "We will disclose it to the Singapore Tourism Board but it will be covered by a confidentially agreement."

Company representatives are expected to be in Singapore next week to meet with government officials on the proposals.

Gaming analysts have been somewhat reluctant to handicap the competition.

"We believe the relationship with a local partner could be a particularly important factor in the decision," Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Marc Falcone said.

"Overall, we believe that the Marina location will be highly contested battle and to pick a winner would be quite difficult at this point," he said. "Singapore could announce a decision as early as June."

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