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[SINGAPORE] Country Joins the Asian Global Casino Craze/Money

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  • madchinaman
    Singapore signs up to global casino club By Will Smale BBC News Online business reporter http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3590184.stm Singapore has in-built
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 11, 2006
      Singapore signs up to global casino club
      By Will Smale
      BBC News Online business reporter

      Singapore has in-built competitive advantages for gamblers

      If even the famously conservative Singaporean government is
      considering allowing its first ever casino, the gambling industry
      must be hot indeed.

      Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced plans for a
      casino resort, hoping to cash in on the wildfire expansion of
      gambling around Asia.

      The announcement reflects a cultural sea-change: whereas gambling and
      casinos were once widely frowned upon, today they are fast-growing,
      both in terms of social acceptability and industry-wide revenues.

      While Las Vegas continues to see visitor numbers ever expand, and the
      UK government plans to greatly liberalise Britain's casino industry,
      Singapore is the latest country to consider placing a bet on boosting
      its gambling revenues.

      And in terms of geographical position it is in exactly the right
      place, with most gambling industry analysts seeing the Far East as
      the biggest growth area of all, driven in the main by the Chinese.
      Gambling remains illegal in mainland China, sending risk-hungry
      punters overseas.

      Big business
      At present Chinese people who wish to gamble legally mainly visit
      Macau, the former Portuguese colony on the Chinese coast west of Hong
      Kong, which has long been a gambling magnet.

      New casinos are being built across the Far East
      Add casinos in other countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines, and
      Cambodia, and Asia's legal gambling industry is valued at about $14bn
      (£7.7bn) a year. You can bet your bottom dollar that Singapore is now
      thinking that it would like its share of this rather lucrative pie.

      And with Singapore wishing to move its economy more towards the
      service sector, as its manufacturing base continues to be hit by fast-
      growing Chinese competition, a shiny new casino could help boost
      tourist numbers.

      "If gambling is one of the things [tourists] want to do, then maybe
      we should allow them to do that, find some way to do that, and as a
      result of that over 10 years double the [tourist] traffic volume. I
      think we should think about it," said Singapore's new prime minister
      Lee Hsien Loong.

      Such a casino would also help Singapore recover much of the $180m a
      year it is estimated that Singaporeans spend each year in
      neighbouring Malaysian casinos.

      Very popular
      But with more casinos meaning more tourists and revenues for the
      global gambling industry, and increased tax revenues for the
      respective governments, what exactly is in it for the punters?

      Las Vegas wishes to attract more Asian visitors
      "Essentially it is good fun," said a spokesman for UK firm Ladbrokes,
      which runs an online casino.

      "People want to have an enjoyable time, and betting at a casino - off-
      line or on-line - is exciting."

      The Singapore government is now seeking public feedback before making
      its decision in January.

      Its proposal has however already received an enthusiastic response
      from some of the global casino heavyweights, such as US giant Las
      Vegas Sands, which said it would pump in as much as $2bn to operate a
      Singapore casino.

      Possible dangers
      Yet while any Singaporean casino would undoubtedly be popular,
      Singapore will not have things its own way - Las Vegas Sands recently
      opened a shiny new casino in Macau, and more foreign owned facilities
      are to follow in the Chinese Special Administrative Region.

      While away in Las Vegas, merging MGM Mirage/Mandalay Resort and
      Harrah's/Caesars, both have ambitious plans to attract more visitors
      from the Far East.

      Yet the more immediate problem for the Singaporean Government is
      local opposition.

      Both Christian and Muslim groups have already expressed their
      concern, warning that any casino would fuel gambling addiction, crime
      and inflict social ills in what is one of Asia's safest societies.

      "Singapore needs to be aware of the problems a casino will create,"
      said a spokesman for the Gordon House Association, a UK-based
      organisation that offers assistance to addicted gamblers.

      "While the vast majority of the population will be fine, a minority
      will be severely affected.

      "It will be interesting to see how Singapore tackles this problem."

      Meanwhile some of Singapore's avid gamblers are up in arms at plans
      to limit casino access to only the wealthy, with proposals to
      literally ban people on low incomes.
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