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pavilions for a Louis Vuitton flagship store and a nightspot, plus a 55th-floor spa are among features still in the works. The disadvantage is that Marina Bay Sands feels

like a building site. “It opened while it was still heavily in the construction phase,” Mr Monaghan says, “and I think that never really gives the visitor the best first experience.” As the amount of work in progress diminishes, most

experts expect revenue to grow in a year or two and beyond. “Local demand will only improve again as the property becomes complete,” Mr Monaghan says. “The MRT [subway] line needs to open. That will bring massive amounts of people to Marina Bay Sands.” The subway line is due to open in 2013. By then

the resort should be complete and should have established a definitive personality for itself.

Counting the chips Surprisingly, neither the Singapore

government nor Resorts World Sentosa owner Genting releases casino revenue numbers. So understanding the local casino market requires guesswork, whether you are a stock market analyst, idle speculator or potential entrepreneur who wants to start a complementary business. Casino revenue at Marina Bay Sands in

2010 was US$1.1 billion (MOP8.8 billion), growing 10.3 percent in the fourth quarter to US$457.1 million, according to owner Las Vegas Sands. Resorts World Sentosa got a head start by opening 10 weeks before Marina Bay Sands, and one Asian casino expert who prefers not to be identified believes that Resorts World Sentosa turned this advantage into a 60 percent slice of the local market. The expert believes that Marina Bay Sands recovered from its later start to draw even in the third quarter, and finish last year with 55 percent of the market.

Distant second The value of Singapore’s gaming market is

estimated to have been US$2.8 billion last year, or about one-eighth the value of Macau’s market, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. PricewaterhouseCoopers forecasts that Singapore’s gaming market this year (the first full year for both its casino resorts) will be worth US$5.5 billion, making it the second- largest in the Asia-Pacific region. But it would still be less than 20 percent the size of Macau’s.

Singapore limits casino revenue with a

variety of restrictions. Junket operators face stringent licensing and disclosure rules, and none have been licensed, though reports of unlicensed junket activity persist. Singapore residents must pay a casino entry fee of S$100 (MOP633) or S$2,000 per year. Government restrictions on local advertising and marketing led to a ban on free casino shuttle bus services last September. Its tax regime favours premium play, taxing it at just

12 percent, compared with 22 percent for mass play. Both casinos rely on players from neighbouring Malaysia. The casino expert who prefers not to be identified believes Malaysians and local players account for at least 75 to 80 percent of casino patrons. Complaints from Malaysia led Singapore to open its voluntary casino exclusion regime to foreigners. Any local backlash against the growth of gambling in Singapore could bring higher taxes or more restrictions on residents. The expert says the casinos are hoping to

attract more of the growing tourist traffic from China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. “But [Singapore’s] attraction will dwindle down after five years. Shanghai and Korea theme parks will take over. Casino revenue will stagnate at around US$6 billion to US$7 billion,” the expert says. “This is no Macau.”

The Singapore authorities aim to keep it that way.

26 MAY 2011

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