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Sun, Mar 14, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Singapore eyeing casino to woo tourists, investors

DPA AND AFP , SINGAPORE

In what would be a major switch from Singapore's long ban on casinos, the government may allow one on a southern island to woo international talent, tourists and investments.

The possibility was disclosed by Trade and Industry Minister George Yeo in parliament on Friday while discussing plans for a 500-hectare resort and residential development linking the island of Sentosa by bridge or boat to the Southern Islands 3km away.

"We are keeping an open mind on what to have in this development, including the possibility of having a casino," Yeo said.

If the taboo is lifted and the city-state goes ahead, Yeo said the government would put in place control measures to limit the casino's access to Singaporeans and to prevent organized crime.

The complex, modelled on Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, will feature a comprehensive range of facilities including attractive beaches, hotels, private residential homes, marinas, sports complexes, convention centers, health spas, retail, and food and beverage outlets.

Yeo said steps will be taken to keep organized crime out of the business.

"What we envisage is an international facility separate from Singapore but accessible to all Singaporeans, with more relaxed rules to attract investments," he said.

Should Singapore lift the casino ban, it would be the latest in a series of moves taken to shed the city-state's restrictive image.

Lotteries and betting on horse races are allowed, but authorities have repeatedly rejected suggestions for a casino, arguing the social dangers outweigh the potential for profit.

A casino would put Singapore in competition with Malaysia's casino run by Genting Bhd and with gaming facilities in Macau.

Hobbled by lack of resources and a small and ageing population, Singapore is positioning itself as a cosmopolitan city with high-end services, lively entertainment choices and cutting-edge industries attracting money and talent from all over the world.

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