Sands To Build Singapore’s First Casino

The government of Singapore on May 26th awarded Las Vegas Sands Corp. the right to build a hotel-casino complex in the city-state’s marina district.

Bids for the integrated resort, which will cost an estimated $3.6 billion to build, attracted some of the largest casino operators in the world, including Harrah’s Entertainment and MGM Mirage, many of which forged partnerships with similar Asian companies to help their case. Las Vegas Sands, however, made its pitch completely by itself.

Sands’ proposal for the Marina Bay Sands includes 2,500 hotel rooms, 1.2 million square feet of meeting space, 1 million square feet of retail, three entertainment venues and the casino, which will be Singapore’s first.

In announcing the $3.17 billion winning bid, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar said Sands’ proposal best met the city-state’s objective, which is to become the leading convention and exhibition destination in Asia.

Some analysts had predicted Sands would lose, mainly because it was deemed to have a prior commitment to Macau, where it already operates a casino complex and plans to develop more.

Sands President William Weidner told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he believes the Singapore government doesn’t see a conflict, since the Macau complex services China and northern Asia while Singapore will cater mostly to southern Asia.

Though Sands has yet to announce when construction of the Singapore complex will begin, Weidner said it should be finished by 2009. The Singapore Trade and Industry Ministry said it expected the project to employ 10,000 people and create 20,000 jobs in other industries.

Sands, however, is risking a lot by taking on the huge project, according to The Wall Street Journal.

It is a relatively small company in terms of assets and has yet to secure financing for the development or finalize deals with hotel companies. Moreover, Nevada law requires local casino operators to work by the same rules overseas that they are forced to observe in Las Vegas, a stipulation that could work to Sands’ disadvantage in the very different cultural and business climate of Asia.

However, the gaming market in Asia can only get larger. Singapore, in fact, is planning a second casino resort on Sentosa Island. Proposals for that development are due October 10th.

Japan is also eyeing legalization of casino gambling, though entrenched interests – mainly the lucrative pachinko (pinball gambling) industry – will likely prevent it in the near future.

– Philip Brasor