Singapore yesterday awarded US casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp the license to build the city-state's first casino -- one that is also set to be the world's most expensive.
The casino-resort at Marina Bay, which will be built on a 20.6-hectare waterfront site near the financial district, is likely to cost more than S$5 billion (US$3.16 billion), Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar told a press conference.
Currently, the world's most expensive casino is the US$2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas that was completed late last year.
Las Vegas Sands beat off competition from three other bidding groups -- MGM Mirage and CapitaLand Ltd, Harrah's Entertainment Inc and Keppel Land Ltd, and Genting International PLC and Star Cruises Ltd.
Sands' president and chief operating officer William Weidner welcomed the Southeast Asian state's decision.
"Our presence in Singapore, combined with our footprint in North Asia and access to China, the largest source of tourism in the foreseeable future, will enable us to generate mutual benefits for both economies and for visitors alike," Weidner said in a statement.
Singapore last year reversed its decades-old ban on casino gambling, and said it would award licenses to operate a casino resort at Marina Bay and another on the resort island of Sentosa to boost tourism and help the city-state shed its straight-laced image.
Sands, which runs the Venetian casino in Las Vegas and is expanding into Macau, says it expects to open the resort in 2009.
Jayakumar said Sand's proposal best met the city-state's economic and tourism objectives, and would significantly strengthen Singapore's position as a leading destination for conventions and exhibitions.
The casino and resort will be a "large scale iconic development," he said, with a construction cost of S$3.85 billion and a land cost of S$1.2 billion.
"The [Sands] proposal also possesses unique design elements which will provide a memorable image for Marina Bay," he added.
The Marina Bay Sands will directly employ 10,000 people and result in 20,000 jobs being created in other industries, Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang told the press conference.
According to the Singapore Tourism Board, the bidders were assessed based on four criteria: tourism appeal and contribution; architectural concept and design; development investment; and strength of the consortium and partners.
US casino operators have been rushing to expand in Asia to tap the region's fast-growing ranks of millionaires and middle-class consumers. Besides vying to build a casino in Singapore, MGM and Sands are also developing properties in Macau.
The tender for Singapore's second casino was launched in April. The government will likely decide on the winning bid for the Sentosa casino before the end of the year.