Friday, 30 March 2007

A Sure Bet

Singapore recently awarded the Sentosa Integrated Resort (IR) contract to the Genting group. It will be a Theme Park but mainly a Casino and it's hard not to be cynical about the motives for the latter. Gambling is heavily regulated in all countries and up till now, Singapore has been notably under-served. Genting run the only casino in Malaysia (well, it is a Muslim state) and awarding it to them (against heavy competition from Vegas-related consortia) certainly doesn't hurt relations with their neighbour.

This is about money. Specifically, bringing in more external revenue. Locals either won't be allowed in, or at least will be heavily controlled. The government doesn't want to feed the local gambling habits. Oh no.

What is stunning is just how much money is at stake. For comparison, Hong Kong punters basically are stuck with horse racing at Happy Valley. The HK Jockey Club distributes HK$1bn (£65m) annually to charities and is the largest single taxpayer in Hong Kong. It paid HK$12.4bn in 2005-06, that's about 8.6% of all taxes collected by the government - on turnover of HK$98.9bn.

Singapore celebrated over 7 million foreigner visits last year (a record) and as tourist attractions go, big casinos deliver big result$.