In 1923, gambling was briefly legalized in the then-British colony of Singapore, but the experiment led to gambling addiction and increased crime, and gambling was criminalised again within three years.
Since then, the operation of legal gambling in Singapore has been limited to the government-run Singapore Pools for lotteries, and Singapore Turf Club for horse racing. However, during a parliament session on 18 April 2005, Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore, announced the cabinet's decision to develop two casinos and associated hotels and malls in Marina South and Sentosa.
The government claims the aim of the project is to boost Singapore's tourism industry which has been facing intense competition from other destinations around the region, particularly from nearby Bangkok and Hong Kong, which has since also considered legalisation of casinos in the wake of initiatives in Singapore. Even closer to home, Malaysia has long had a legal casino cum theme park on Genting Highlands, which proved popular with Singaporean tourists. The IRs in Singapore are expected to create about 35,000 jobs directly and indirectly. In addition to the casinos, the IRs will have other amenities including hotels, restaurants, shopping and convention centers, theatres, museums and theme parks. The industry is expected to invest US$7.1 billion in integrated resorts (US$3.5 billion in Marina Bay; US$3.6 billion in Resorts World).
Public debate and criticisms
The plan to build the casinos was subject to considerable debate among Singaporeans. Several groups, such as those belonging to the Muslim and Christian communities as well as social workers, openly expressed their disapproval of the casinos. Concerns were raised about the negative social impact of casino gambling, citing worries that the casinos could encourage more gambling and increase the risk of compulsive gambling. Activist groups argued that a casino could also lead to undesirable activities often associated with gambling, including money laundering, loan sharks or even organised crime.
Lee acknowledged the downsides of having integrated resorts and the concerns expressed by the public. He promised that there would be safeguards to limit the social impact of casino gambling. He stated there would be restrictions on the admission of local people into the casinos, for example, family members of a patron of the casino may block him or her from entering and gambling. Lee announced a steep entrance fee of S$100 per entry or S$2,000 per year and a system of exclusions for all Singaporeans. In addition, the casinos would not be allowed to extend credit to the local population.
Lee, who has been prime minister since August 2004, took a significant political risk when he made the decision, with some of his cabinet members against the plan. Nonetheless, Lee decided to go ahead with the decision; he stated:
"As Prime Minister, I carry the ultimate responsibility for the decision."
The six-month consultative period gave the opportunity for many sections of the population to voice their opposition to the casinos, including a petition that attracted tens of thousands of signatures. When Lee approved the proposal after such widespread criticism, the opposition said that he had overruled consensus.
The debate over integrated resorts also brought to the public's attention a discussion on the methods and ways government policies should be deliberated in Singapore, and whether they were effective or needed reform. This is especially because the political climate is dominated by the People's Action Party. Low Thia Khiang, the leader of the opposition Workers' Party, warned in a parliament session:
"The Government sought the opinion of the people but it does not go along with the opinion of the people and it has now made a unilateral decision. Eventually, will it turn out to be a blessing or a curse to our people? We have to wait and see. [...] Under the current situation, where a party is dominant and the civil society is very weak, the people cannot sway the Government's decision on such a matter that concerns the fate of the people. If the Government's judgment is wrong, it would lead the nation and our people on to the 'river of no return', where the cost would be very real and very heavy."
In December 2004, the government of Singapore called for a request-for-concept (RFC), inviting industry players to submit concept proposals for the integrated resorts. A total of 19 bids were submitted during the RFC.
Four companies/consortia placed formal bids for the Marina Bay site:
- Genting International/Star Cruises
- Harrah's Entertainment/Keppel Land
- Las Vegas Sands
- MGM Mirage/CapitaLand
While Harrah's and MGM were considered forerunners, Las Vegas Sands emerged as the surprise winner when it was announced on 26 May 2006. Las Vegas Sands had committed the highest development investment of S$3.85 billion. With the land price and associated capital cost, its total investment will exceed S$5 billion. It would also be one of the most expensive casinos in the world. The design by Moshe Safdie consists of three large shells containing conference halls and other business venues, three large hotel towers linked on their top floors by a sweeping sky garden, and a centerpiece museum which juts out onto the bay.
"Sands has submitted the best overall proposal that meets our economic tourism objective. In particular, the proposal will significantly strengthen Singapore's position as a leading MICE destination and the proposal also possesses unique design elements that will provide a memorable image for Marina Bay."
Marina Bay Sands officially launched the opening of its first phase developments on 27 April 2010 and held its official grand opening celebrations on 23 June 2010. It is billed as a centrepiece of the Marina Bay landscape. Amenities include a hotel with 2,560 rooms and suites, Sands Expo and Convention Center with dining and shopping facilities, and the Sands SkyPark at Level 57 of the hotel, which features a 150 metre long infinity-edge swimming pool. The Expo and Convention Center served as the main media center for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games 2010 held in Singapore in August 2010. Other facilities such as museums, theatres and crystal pavilions are due to open over the year through till 2011.
Three consortia submitted their proposals by the due date on 10 October 2006, including:
- Eighth Wonder with Publishing and Broadcasting Limited, Melco International Development, Isle of Capri Casinos (design by Peter Marino)
- Genting International with Star Cruises, Universal Studios (design by Michael Graves)
- Kerzner International with Capitaland (design by Frank Gehry)
The bids were reviewed by a ministerial committee and a tender evaluation committee. The ministerial committee was headed by Deputy Prime Minister Prof S Jayakumar and included Tharman Shanmugaratnam, S Iswaran, Mah Bow Tan, Lim Hng Kiang, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Raymond Lim as its members.
Results were announced on 8 December 2006. The winning consortium was front-runner Genting International and Star Cruises with their bid for the Resorts World Sentosa.
"Genting International & Star Cruises submitted the most compelling proposal overall that best meets our economic and tourism objectives. In particular, the proposal reflects our vision for the Sentosa IR as a large-scale, family resort with its host of world-class family leisure attractions and other strong offerings. We believe that the attractions will position Sentosa as a premier island resort for families and draw significant numbers of both new and repeat visitors to Singapore."—Deputy Prime Minister Prof S Jayakumar
- Abbugao, Martin (29 August 2010). "Singapore's bet on casino resorts paying off big". eTurboNews. Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 2011-10-08. "As well as the casinos, Singapore's euphemistically named "integrated resorts" also offer theme parks, high-end shopping, hotels and convention halls."
- "Marina Bay Sands Opens its doors". Press Release. Marina Bay Sands. 27 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- Danubrata, Eveline; Daga, Anshuman (April 9, 2013). "High-Rollers From China Make Singapore Casinos See Red". Reuters.
- Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (18 April 2005). "Proposal to develop Integrated Resorts" (PDF). Developing Industries > Integrated Resorts > Ministerial Speeches & Comments. Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore. Retrieved 2008-01-17. "The first question was whether to have IRs at all. The answer was yes. Having settled that, the next question was whether to have one or two IRs. We decided on two IRs, because the Bayfront and Sentosa projects complement each other, because having two provides competition and critical mass, and because we believe that two projects will bring more economic benefits, without increasing the social cost commensurately; After weighing the matter carefully, the Cabinet has collectively concluded that we had no choice but to proceed with the IRs. As Prime Minister, I carry the ultimate responsibility for the decision."
- Low Thia Khiang (19 April 2005). "Casinos in Integrated Resorts". The Workers' Party of Singapore. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-17. "The Government sought the opinion of the people but it does not go along with the opinion of the people and it has now made a unilateral decision. Eventually, will it turn out to be a blessing or a curse to our people? We have to wait and see; Under the current situation, where a party is dominant and the civil society is very weak, the people cannot sway the Government's decision on such a matter that concerns the fate of the people. If the Government's judgment is wrong, it would lead the nation and our people on to the "river of no return", where the cost would be very real and very heavy."
- Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Trade and Industry (8 March 2005). "Response by Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Trade and Industry, during the Committee of Supply Debate on 8 March 2005" (PDF). News and Events > Speeches. Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore. Retrieved 2008-01-17. "On this issue of integrated resort, this is an issue that has been debated many times, there were a lot of views put up. We have had this discussion over a year. I disagree with Mr Gan Kim Yong. In fact, members of this house had used this house, on many occasions, to express their views and even though we may not have a direct debate, the government has listened to these views and these views would be taken into consideration when we make our decision. PM had explained that we intend to make a decision before the middle of April. The government had been elected to govern and it had the full mandate to decide on many important issues, for example the GST increase and the CPF contribution changes. All these are issues that, having gone through discussions and taking into consideration the views of the people, the government then had to make a decision. This, I think, is the same for the integrated resort. I agree with Mr Gan Kim Yong that the Workers Party and Mr Low Thia Khiang had been conspicuously quiet for this whole, entire one year. And like him, I am a little perplexed why he thinks this ought to be an election issue. As Mr Low Thia Khiang knows, the election is not due until 2007. So is he suggesting that we don’t make any decision and wait until elections come around and treat this as an election issue, two years later?"[dead link]
- James Gomez (7 April 2005). "Workers' Party Policy Statement on the PAP Government's Casino Proposal". The Workers' Party of Singapore. Archived from the original on 7 October 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-17. "The Workers' Party notes that a broad cross section of Singaporean society is concerned about the negative effects of having a Casino literally at their doorsteps. Yet the PAP Government has refused to allow Singaporeans to exercise their right to decide on having a Casino in Singapore through a referendum. The PAP government has also refused the challenge by the Workers' Party to make the proposed Casino an election issue."
- "Casinos? NKF? Do voters care at all?". Analysis News. Channel NewsAsia. 18 April 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-17. "As Singapore prepares to go to the polls, it appears that the two issues that provoked the loudest outcry last year will have very little impact on the way votes are cast. Last year, everyone had something to say about the go-ahead for casinos as well as the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) affair; Of the 21 issues put before them, the one that will have the least influence on their vote is the decision to have the casinos. Eighty-five respondents (54 per cent) said that casinos would definitely not matter to them when they voted. This is more than double the number who said the casino issue would "definitely" influence their vote. Senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies Dr Gillian Koh suggested that the Government's slew of social safeguards had managed to assuage the feelings of the nay-sayers."
- "Las Vegas Sands wins bid to build Singapore's first integrated resort". Singapore News. Channel NewsAsia. 26 May 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-17. "The integrated resort will be a centrepiece of the Marina Bay landscape come 2010. At a news conference on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar said that among the four bidders, Las Vegas Sands had committed the highest development investment of S$3.85 billion. With the land price and associated capital cost, its total investment will exceed S$5 billion. Said Prof Jayakumar, "Sands has submitted the best overall proposal that meets our economic tourism objective. In particular, the proposal will significantly strengthen Singapore's position as a leading MICE destination and the proposal also possesses unique design elements that will provide a memorable image for Marina Bay.""
- "Marina Bay Sands seals 370 deals for Sands Expo and Convention Center". Press Release. Marina Bay Sands. 31 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- "Marina Bay Sands Opening Celebration Highlights Features of New Tourism Icon". Press Release. Marina Bay Sands. 23 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- "Harrah's, Keppel Land pull out of race for Sentosa integrated resort". Singapore News. Channel NewsAsia. 6 October 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-17. "In a statement on Friday, the two partners said they had worked tirelessly on a proposal for Sentosa that would meet the government's ambitious goals for the site. But they decided not to submit a bid because they would not be able to deliver a development on the scale that they had envisioned for Sentosa while meeting their objectives for this project. So, with less than four days to the deadline for the bids, the field is down to just three."
- "Genting bets big on Sentosa". Singapore News. Channel NewsAsia. 11 October 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-17. "Two new faces will be in the ministerial committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Prof S Jayakumar to approve the bids. They are Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Minister of State for Trade and Industry S Iswaran. The duo will join other ministers like Mr Mah Bow Tan, Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Mr Raymond Lim to form the tender approving authority. This committee – together with the tender evaluation committee (TEC) made up of senior civil servants – will review the three bids, said the Singapore Tourism Board."
- Deputy Prime Minister Prof S Jayakumar (8 December 2006). "Remarks by DPM Prof S Jayakumar at Press Conference on Award of Integrated Resort at Sentosa, 8 Dec 2006". Newsroom > Speeches. Ministry of Law, Singapore. Retrieved 2008-01-17. "Genting International & Star Cruises submitted the most compelling proposal overall that best meets our economic and tourism objectives. In particular, the proposal reflects our vision for the Sentosa IR as a large-scale, family resort with its host of world-class family leisure attractions and other strong offerings. We believe that the attractions will position Sentosa as a premier island resort for families and draw significant numbers of both new and repeat visitors to Singapore."
|Library resources about
- Developing Industries: Integrated Resorts of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (Singapore)
- The Integrated Resorts: A Select Guide (English Version), http://libguides.nl.sg/integratedresort – Singapore National Library Board (NLB) NLS Resource Guides