The integrated resorts (casinos with added on leisure to you and me) in Singapore celebrate two years this month. Marina Bay Sands (MBS) dominates the Singapore skyline while Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is not as visually impactful but has shown similar commercial nous.
They both have had a stratospheric effect on the gambling industry globally and tourism in Singapore.
In just two years Singapore’s two monster casinos (I will call them Integrated Resorts when gambling doesn’t contribute 80% of all
revenue to both of them…..) have taken second place in the world’s gambling revenue table. Las Vegas is now third place with US$6BN behind Singapore with just over US$6BN and the true goliath of gambling, Macao with over US$44BN. Of the rates of increase Singapore is the fastest growing.
Chinese from mainland China are the primary reason why Singapore has benefited from the wise and very commercially savvy decision to allow gambling at just these two casinos in Singapore (aside from the government owned Singapore Pools) that the Government took against much public opinion.
Commercially the whole country has benefited. 44,000 new jobs have been created, there has been a 36% increase in tourism numbers (why go Australia when you can come to Singapore in less than half the time), increased tourism spend to S$22BN, doubling the previous amount.
However to truly become a Vegas style resort with less emphasis on gambling and more on entertainment that 80% ratio will have to dramatically change. Singapore’s two casino resorts have shown remarkable marketing ability to fill rooms, 94% full for Marina Bay Sands and 86% for Resorts World Sentosa.
MICE events have been harder to fill at MBS surprisingly with only 1.1 million drawn tro 2,740 events, while RWS has benefited from focus on local events and attracted 1 million to 4,000 less glamorous events.
Leisure and entertainment is where the resorts have not exploited their potential to the full. With 70 restaurants at RWS and 5 celebrity chefs, 38 at MBS and seven celebrity chefs the real disappointment is the lack of world class concerts at either resort.
Although RWS has the comparatively small Universal Studies Tour with world exclusive rides like the new Transformers one they have lacked great shows and great concerts to entice non-gamblers to their venue. The same applies to MBS who have benefited from The Lion King and Wicked musicals but again have lacked the big transforming hitters. Time will tell whether the focus on this area will pay off this year.
Of course not everyone is happy. Despite the Government charging Singaporean’s $100 to enter casinos and nothing for foreigners
there has been an steady increase in ban orders on all, up to 44,000 at the last count. There has also been an increase in gambling related problems. However they are minimal by comparison to the overall benefits the casinos bring to this tropical paradise of ours.
There are though threats on the horizon, many countries have noticed have Singapore, the brand and the economy, has benefited from the casinos.
Vietnam (with 90 million population are the most serious threat both from a population point of view and logistically given that they are even nearer China), Thailand, Sri Lanka, Korea, the Philippines and other Asian countries including the Holy Grail, Japan (where 5 out of 8 slot machines in the world are located) are seriously looking at either legalizing gambling or finding a way to capitalize from the Asian and especially Chinese obsession with gambling.