Singapore threw open the doors of its second casino yesterday, giving a fresh boost to the city’s tourism sector and raising its profile as a playground for the world’s high-rollers.
The US$5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands, built by US gaming giant Las Vegas Sands, opened at the locally auspicious time of 3:18pm. The number eight sounds like the word for prosperity in Chinese.
It is Las Vegas Sands’ latest big-time bet on the future of Asia’s gaming industry and is its first casino in Asia outside Macau.
Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson said he expected to recoup his Singapore investment in five years.
“Most of the high-end players are reputable businesspeople. They have to travel anyway so they typically would travel to the major cities, like Hong Kong and Singapore, wherein they do business,” he told reporters.
Singapore gave the green light for casino gambling in 2005, setting off a flurry of construction that went ahead despite the city-state slipping into recession in 2008 because of the global financial crisis.
Its first casino, the US$4.4 billion Resorts World Sentosa built by Malaysia’s Genting Group, opened for business on Feb. 14.
Marina Bay Sands was originally set to open at the end of last year, but faced repeated delays caused by a number of factors, including material and labor shortages and financial problems because of the downturn.
The opening includes the casino and 963 out of 2,560 hotel rooms, a portion of the shopping mall, some restaurants, an exhibition center and the events plaza.
The remaining hotel rooms and suites, a skypark and more shops will open on June 23, while a museum, theaters and other stores will start operations later in the year, the management said.
Officials hope the casinos will help Singapore achieve a target of attracting 17 million visitors a year generating over US$21 billion by 2015, supporting the services sector and reducing the role of manufacturing in the economy.
“This second casino is another boost to the economy, which has been doing much better,” economist David Cohen at research house Action Economics said.
“It should support tourist arrivals, and the retail sector should benefit from that especially now in the midst of the improving global outlook,” he said.
Singapore’s economy surged 13.1 percent in the first quarter from a year ago, prompting the government to sharply upgrade its growth projection this year to 7 percent to 9 percent from 4.5 percent to 6.5 percent.
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