Singapore's first casino set for partial opening
Singapore's first casino-resort is set to partially open Wednesday, a key part of a government plan to reduce reliance on manufacturing and brand the tightly controlled city-state as a cosmopolitan Asian capital.
Resorts World Sentosa, built by Malaysia's Genting Bhd for 6.6 billion Singapore dollars (US$5 billion), will open 1,340 rooms in four hotels, including a Hard Rock hotel and a property designed by architect Michael Graves.
A Universal Studios theme park will likely open next month on the sprawling 49-hectare complex on Sentosa, an island a quarter of a mile off Singapore's coast.
The resort's casino, the city-state's first, is expected to open in March after Genting's application for a license was delayed to December from October when gambling authorities asked for more information. Officials have said it will probably take three months to process the license.
Singapore - known for its ban on chewing gum sales and canings for crimes some countries would rule as minor - strictly controls public speech and assembly though has become socially more liberal and allowed greater artistic freedom in recent years. The decision to allow casinos followed a rare national debate though the government's desired outcome was never in doubt.
The government expects Resorts World - along with the expected May opening of the Marina Bay Sands casino resort - to increase the country's gross domestic product growth growth by up to one percentage point, boost tourist arrivals and add 35,000 jobs.
With a well-educated population that speaks English, Chinese and Malay, Singapore is increasingly focusing on finance and tourism, said Irvin Seah, an economist with DBS Bank in Singapore.
"Services are really a green pasture going forward for Singapore," Seah said. "It's the area which we really want to fully exploit and it's where we have a comparative advantage in the region."
Manufacturing, which has long dominated the economy, has been slowly leaving the country as companies seek cheaper labor costs in regional neighbours such as China and Vietnam.