Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No Stand-Alone Casinos To Be Allowed: Iswaran

Source : The Business Times, November 18, 2008

But govt considering IRs' requests to open in phases

MARINA Bay Sands (MBS) and Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS) may be allowed to open in phases but will not be allowed to open as stand-alone casinos.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry S Iswaran told Parliament yesterday the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and other government agencies are considering requests by MBS and RWS to phase the opening of the integrated resorts (IRs).

'If the requests are allowed, they will also be subject to various terms and conditions,' he said. 'Even as we do so, our expectation remains that each development will open as an integrated resort, and not just a stand-alone casino.'

Mr Iswaran's comments are the clearest indication so far that even though MBS and RWS will be allowed to apply for casino licences upon spending at least 50 per cent of committed investment capital and building at least 50 per cent of committed gross floor area, this does not mean either will necessarily be allowed to open in phases.

According to the Request for Proposal for Marina Bay, if the IR is developed in phases, the public attractions at the Bayfront Promontory, the Waterfront Promenade, Event Plaza and infrastructure work must be completed in the first phase.

In response to NMP Eunice Olsen's question on when the IR's boost to the GDP can be achieved and whether the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) anticipates the financial crisis affecting business prospects, Mr Iswaran said he expects, 'there may be some impact'.

In 2006, when it was announced that Las Vegas Sands had won the Marina Bay site, MTI said that based on its simulation, visitor arrivals and tourism revenue from MBS could add $2.7 billion to Singapore's GDP by 2015, or about 0.8 per cent of the GDP at that point.

When Genting International won the Sentosa site in the same year, its chairman and CEO Lim Kok Thay said RWS was expected to generate $15 billion in revenue by 2015, accounting for half of the $30 billion tourism revenue target set by STB by 2015.

Mr Iswaran said yesterday: 'It is premature to try to ascertain in quantitative terms what the exact impact (of the global financial crisis) will be, given the volatile economic conditions.'

He was, however, more upbeat on the longer term prospects of the IRs, saying he believes they will still add as many as 40,000 jobs by 2015. This is on top of the 20,000 direct jobs created by the IRs.

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