atans1

Casinos: Flies in the ointment

In Casinos on 22/01/2011 at 5:25 am

The casinos have done better than anyone could have dreamed of. Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa generated $420 million in net revenue for the government between April and November last year.And also collected $130 million in casino entry levies on behalf of the Tote Board for the same period.

Too bad Turf Club and clubs scan0009.

But it could have been better. I’m saying this as sumeone who tot S’pore had missed the cruse boat on casinos first by refusing to allow them until 2004 (mid 1990s would have been “betterest”) and by insisting that casinos play down the mass market side of the trade with the integrated resort and high roller concepts. The govmin wanted casinos as part of IRs. It wanted high rollers in dinner jackets, dancing gals and dolphins, fancy eating places: anything but the ordinary punter.

The numbers show that casino and hence the tax revenues could be higher if not for the govmin. As Sentosa has shown with a vengeance, the ordinary punters from M’sia and S’pore with the help of middle class Indon tourists  are the main stay of the casinos, not the high rollers the govmin wanted. And they don’t go there because of the food or gals or for anything else. They go to gamble.

And one problem why the high rollers are not coming: the rules on junket operators have not been finalised.

This takes me to the second “fly in the ointment”. Too tight the rules, and the operators will not bring in the high rollers. Too lax the rules, and there goes the banking and wealth mgt aspirations or worse. A reputation as a money laundering centre will kill the banking and wealth mgt industry overnight. The fear and danger is that  serious money can be laundered by a few unscrupulous junket operators, the majority of whom focus on servicing genuine high rollers.

Uniquely S’pore: having as major driver-industries, gambling on one hand, and banking and wealth mgt industry on the other.

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