[Updated on 7 September 2010 — see last para]
Casinos would be allowed in Singapore only “over my dead body,” Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s founder and a fierce opponent of gambling, once said according to the opening paragraph of this NYT article on the casinos here
Well he allowed them in when still alive but will they be more than the living dead when it comes to attracting high rollers?
While hoping to draw free-spending Chinese, Indonesians and other foreigners to the establishments, the government has imposed strict reporting regulations that make it difficult for the casinos to draw high rollers, who typically make up a disproportionate share of casino revenues.
Casino revenues, experts say, could also be crimped by Singapore’s stringent restrictions.
In Asia, especially in Macao, high rollers are usually shuffled from one casino to another by tour operators who guarantee their privacy. But the government here requires tour operators to disclose gamblers’ names and passport and tax identification numbers. The regulations have effectively forced the casinos to seek high rollers on their own by inviting big-betting guests from their casinos outside Singapore.
And its not even attracting the tourists
So far, the news media here have reported that locals have accounted for a greater share of gamblers than had been expected; Sands, which opened in late April, attracted bad press when participants in the first conference held there complained of power failures and other problems. Whether the resorts eventually attract the sought-after buzz and foreigners, especially when they are fully running later this year, remains to be seen.
“If I were to hazard a guess, I think that those who were banking on the holistic concept of integrated resorts to bring an increased and diverse number of tourists may be disappointed,” Derek da Cunha, the author of “Singapore Places Its Bets,” a book on the casinos’ impact on Singapore, said in an e-mail message. “Insofar as tourism is concerned, what we largely have now is casino tourism.”
So what hope the casinos would generate the kind of “buzz” found in London, Paris and New York.
“Their development is also part of our bigger plan to reinvent our city-state and turn it into an exciting, livable global city,” the Singapore Tourism Board said in a written reply to a question about the resorts.
The only gd thing
Through their sheer size and proximity to the city center, the casinos have already transformed Singapore’s landscape.
And if you were a friend of Dr Chee or his SDP, or TOC Choo another sign of PAP failure.
The truth is more wishy-washy. It is too early to tell … whether they will succeed, as Singapore hopes, in transforming its image, culture and mind-set.
But the signs don’t look good.
Well based on Gentings performance as reflected in its share price, the casinos are making money. But the fiasco over the “tapping” of locals, shows that the aim to attracting foreigners and remaking S’pore is still “an aspiration” (to quote MM from another context).