US gaming operator Las Vegas Sands signed an agreement with the Singapore government yesterday to build a US$3.2 billion casino, the first in the city-state, three months after winning the bid.
The signing of the "development agreement" with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) marked the formal turnover of the site on downtown Marina Bay so that construction work can start.
Marina Bay Sands, as the "integrated resort" project is called, will open in 2009. It will feature a casino and other facilities like hotels, convention areas, retail shops and restaurants.
Las Vegas Sands in May beat US rivals MGM Mirage and Harrah's Entertainment and Malaysia's Genting International for the right to build the casino with its overall proposal aimed at strengthening Singapore's position as a top meeting and conventions destination.
The US gaming giant, which already has an Asian presence in Macau, plans to spend more than S$5 billion (US$3.2 billion) for the project, one of the biggest investments in the world for a single casino project.
"The development of the Marina Bay Sands is an important project for the STB, as well as for Singapore's tourism industry and economy," tourism board chief executive Lim Neo Chian said.
He said that by 2015, the casino resort was projected to contribute S$2.7 billion annually to the national GDP and create 30,000 jobs.
Singapore aims to double tourist arrivals to 17 million by 2015, and the resort project is a key magnet.
Las Vegas Sands said it has already begun pre-construction work and also started pre-marketing activities to ensure a steady pipeline of meetings, incentive travel, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) activities once the integrated resort opens.
"The Marina Bay Sands is on track and on target to be launched in 2009 as planned," said William Weidner, Las Vegas Sands president and chief operating officer.
The resort project will feature 100,000m2 of MICE space to accommodate up to 52,000 people, making it one of the largest such facilities in Asia.
Sands has also said that it will build an "ArtScience Museum" and a rooftop "sky park" about 50 stories high.
Singapore last year lifted a ban on casino gambling and announced plans for two casino resorts.
The government has also invited bids for its second casino project on Sentosa island.
The bidding will close on Oct. 10 and the winner be announced by the end of the year.