Singapore casinos trump Macau with tourism aces

Mon Sep 23, 2013 10:45pm EDT
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By Anshuman Daga and Kevin Lim

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Casino operators and regulators around Asia are watching Singapore's two multi-billion-dollar gaming resorts as they focus on tourists and trade shows to boost revenue in response to restrictions on gambling and a sluggish broader market.

The city-state has become a playground for Asia's rich and famous, with attractions ranging from fancy clubs and restaurants helmed by Michelin-starred chefs to the world's only night-time Formula One race.

Las Vegas Sands Corp, which owns the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) casino in downtown Singapore, says its 2,500-room hotel is packed and it is eager to expand its holiday accommodation and convention facilities near its three iconic towers.

"Obviously at 99 percent occupancy in the hotel, we think we can sell a few more hotel rooms. So we'd love to increase our inventory of rooms," MBS CEO George Tanasijevich said in an interview.

Genting Singapore Ltd, which runs Resorts World at Singapore's Sentosa island, is building a mid-tier business and leisure hotel in the suburbs to house guests that it will ferry to its Universal Studios theme park, aquarium and other attractions, in the hope some will also patronise the casino.

The Singapore casinos' strategy of burying gambling floors inside family-friendly resorts is catching the attention of governments from Japan to Vietnam, which are attracted to the income casinos provide but wary about becoming too dependent on gaming revenue and the social impact of casino liberalisation.

Non-gaming revenue accounted for about a quarter of the two resorts' total combined revenue of about $1.3 billion in the quarter ended June, a high proportion compared with regional casino capital Macau where non-gaming is only about 10 percent of total revenue.

Genting said its Marine Life Park and Universal Studios had more than 1.7 million visitors in the second quarter of this year, mostly families on vacation including many from regional countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, China and India.   Continued...

Marina Bay Sands' President and Chief Executive Officer George Tanasijevich speaks during an interview with Reuters at their premises in Singapore September 11, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su