Four hotels open at Singapores first casino-resort - Monday 21st of January 2013
Singapores first casino-resort partially opened Wednesday, a key part of a government plan to reduce reliance on manufacturing and brand the tightly controlled city-state as a cosmopolitan Asian capital.
Resorts World Sentosa, built by Malaysias Genting Bhd for 6.6 billion Singapore dollars ($5 billion), opened 1,340 rooms in four hotels, including a Hard Rock hotel and a property designed by architect Michael Graves. Its 7,300-seat ballroom, one of Asias largest, will host its first event at the end of this month.
A Universal Studios theme park is expected to open in the coming weeks on the sprawling 49-hectare complex on Sentosa, an island a quarter of a mile off Singapores coast. No firm date has been set, said Genting chairman Lim Kok Thay, contradicting reports it would open next week.
The resorts casino, the first of two planned for the city-state, is expected to open in March following delays in getting its license approved.
Genting is still likely to steal a march on rival Las Vegas Sands, which is looking at a May launch for its $5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands casino-resort.
Both casino operators are eyeing Asias high-roller market — an endeavor Singapore facilitates with its 12% tax on net revenue from big-money gamblers, compared with Macaus 39%. Genting expects tourists to make up 60% of visitors to its casino with up to a quarter of those tourists to come from China.
READ MORE: U.S. casinos bet on Macau pays off
Singapore — known for its ban on chewing gum sales and canings for crimes some countries would rule as minor — strictly controls public speech and assembly though has become socially more liberal and allowed greater artistic freedom in recent years. The decision to allow casinos followed a rare national debate though the governments desired outcome was never in doubt.
The government expects the two casino-resorts to increase the countrys gross domestic product growth by up to 1 percentage point, boost tourist arrivals and add 35,000 jobs.
With a well-educated population that speaks English, Chinese and Malay, Singapore is increasingly focusing on finance and tourism, said Irvin Seah, an economist with DBS Bank in Singapore.
"Services are really a green pasture going forward for Singapore," Seah said. "Its the area which we really want to fully exploit and its where we have a comparative advantage in the region."
Manufacturing, which has long dominated the economy, has been slowly leaving the country as companies seek cheaper labor costs in regional neighbors such as China and Vietnam.
"Competitors are catching up very quickly," Seah said. "In some segments of the manufacturing sector, we are certainly fighting a losing battle."
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