Friday, November 21, 2008

Shifting sands

"Sands said that it had also received word from the Casino Regulatory Authority of Singapore that it had approved the company's proposed casino floor plan for up to 1,000 gaming tables, instead of the originally planned 600 tables."
Straits Times, 8 November 2008

This news refers to the casino being built in Singapore on the Marina Bay. When it was first proposed, there was a huge outcry by many Singaporeans against it. Even the Government Cabinet was reportedly divided. But it was finally approved for the long term good of the economy. The stated intent was to grow the tourism and business meetings sector of the economy in the light of competition from places like Australia, Macau and possibly the Philippines. Something was needed to attract more people to the island. Citing the Chinese as "inverterate gamblers", the Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who for decades said 'no' to a casino on the island, also relented. Why? Because this development was not about a casino, it was about an Integrated Resort (IR) and the casino was but one of the many facilities that international travellers, company executives and fun seekers could look forward to. That is why, up until now, the development is never referred to as the Marina Bay Casino (not a bad sounding name, actually), but (euphemistically) the Marina IR.

Now, a financially strapped LV Sands has asked for two things. The first is to increase the number of gaming tables from 600 to a whopping 1000, representing a 66% increase over the original. The second is to open the IR in phases, though it did not indicate which part of the IR it would want to open first. If I read their thoughts correctly, they would probably propose to the government to open their casino first. Why? Simply because that is potentially the single (if not only) most profitable attraction in the IR right now. With disappearing conventions, corporate meetings and the like (I was with some traveling industry executives yesterday, and they all told me that they are having to chase down leads and not wait for orders to roll in, as before).

There is a Chinese saying, "Hard times reveals true intentions". In this case, the true intent of the IR is no more about operating a casino. It is the only intent. The other resort facilities, the places for meetings and conventions? Well, they are really distractions, sideshows at best, aren't they? Some would even say they are the excuses, the smokescreen, to hide the real intent of setting up a gambling den - all prim and proper, blessed by the government. Ditto for the Universal Studio Theme Park in the Sentosa IR. They wouldn't make a cent in the current economic downturn. That is probably why the Casino Regulatory Authority of Singapore authorised the 400 more gaming tables. And don't bet against the casino opening second. It'll be the first. Now I wonder if the $100 fee for entry into the casino for locals will not be reduced, or even lifted altogether.

After all, desperate times demand true action.

Image: Author:Kevin Rosseel

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

This government cannot be trusted at all, all their promises are really hollow. I have given up a=on them long ago, hope to see a election coming soon to vote them all out.