Singapore is no stranger to multinational corporations. The city has been a safe haven for foreign capital since independence in 1965. Many large firms house their regional headquarters in Singapore. However, it is only recently that Singapore has seen the arrival of international gaming companies.
The 'integrated resorts' have changed Singapore's urban landscape, physically and otherwise. The Esplanade's 'durians' are passé. The Marina Bay Sands roof garden is a 'newer and better' representation of Singapore.
I am no moralist. If individuals wish to gamble, let them. Nevertheless, I do recall official exhortations that Singapore's casinos were geared towards foreign visitors.
Various strategies were implemented to discourage Singaporeans from risking their hard earned money at the roulette wheel. Significantly amongst these rules is a 'locals' surcharge. Singaporeans must pay SGD 100 before entering the casinos.
A recent report highlights the success of Singapore's 'gaming strategy.'
In 2011, Singapore is expected to overtake Las Vegas as the second largest gambling city. Singapore's gaming industry should rake in USD 6.4 billion versus USD 6.2 billion for the Las Vegas Strip. Macau retains its top spot.
Importantly, approximately 60 percent of all gamblers at Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa are Singaporeans.
Perhaps Singapore's casinos have been too successful - at least as measured by the number of locals visiting the casinos. Surely, the government did not envisage that a majority of casino patrons would be local citizens. This fact alone suggests it is time to revisit policies designed to discourage Singaporeans from frequenting local casinos.
Singapore's integrated resorts have reinvigorated sectors of the city's economy and real estate market. As an added bonus, the establishments have provided hours of pleasure to gamers; gamblers who otherwise might have travelled to Genting or Macau.
Slowly but surely, Singapore's reputation as a 'sterile' city which imposes fines for everything from chewing gum to littering is being shed. The liberalization of gambling laws is a step in that direction.
A few more steps and, in a few years, there may be little to distinguish the Little Red Dot from Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok.