NTUC chief says casino debate is about creating jobs - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

NTUC's Secretary-General Lim Boon Heng said the big casino debate was really about jobs.

He estimates that up to 10,000 jobs could be created if Singapore builds two casinos - one at Marina and the other at Sentosa.

There will also be several thousand more jobs created in hotels and shops around the island.

Mr Lim, who was speaking to reporters at a union event, said he personally would rather not have a casino, but it is an option that has to be considered.

As a tourist destination, Singapore has been losing some of its shine.

In order to revitalise this mainstay of the economy, it is hoped that an integrated resort with Disney-like facilities and a casino could help bring in more tourists.

Mr Lim even brought up the possibility of two casinos - one at Marina and another at Sentosa.

These could then pump up the jobs - not just at the resort - but provide work in related areas for taxi drivers, restaurant owners and hotel workers.

Mr Lim said: "So, the debate should be about job creation for Singaporeans. The problem is - can we do all this without the casino? That is the issue.

"Those who want to develop this facility say they will invest big money if they are given the casino licence, so we have to weigh that factor carefully."

Mr Lim said experience had shown that several theme park operators have tried and failed, without a casino, to bring in the cash.

Even at sprawling Downtown East where Mr Lim was speaking, it is not the games but jackpot machines that are a financial lifeline for the club.

So important are the earnings in the small jackpot room for the running of the club that were it not for these machines, the NTUC Club would have to be subsidised by up to $1 million from other sources.

Mr Lim said: "I do not like gambling. I wish we do not have to have a casino, but if we can only revitalise our tourism and hospitality sector then maybe it is a price we have to consider."

The government will announce its decision on Monday. - CNA/de

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