The Straits Times says

Placing bigger bets on entertainment

Just how far Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) have come is evident in their willingness to commit $9 billion in investments to expand their integrated resorts (IRs). When they opened nine years ago, they transformed Singapore's physical and economic skyline. However, their arrival was preceded by a great deal of discussion and a marked degree of disquiet: did Singapore need casinos - although the two resorts were more than just gaming businesses? Should not Singapore be focusing its economic strategies and energies on raising the competitive skills of its population instead of taking the route of attracting foreign money? Most of all, would the IRs amplify the human penchant for gambling among Singaporeans, and have familial and social consequences, to the point of threatening the moral cohesion of society? Those were relevant questions, but they have been answered in large part in the course of the past years.

MBS and RWS put Singapore on the map of IRs, which offer a cross-section of visitors an opportunity to experience the sort of entertainment and lifestyle that resorts can offer, even as some choose to experience what chance can offer or withhold at the casinos. Meanwhile, the threat to Singapore society from problem gambling - an addiction comparable to the captive lure of alcohol or drugs - was also recognised and addressed through measures such as the work of the National Council on Problem Gambling. In particular, the casino exclusion and visit limit have been safeguards to stop or limit problem gamblers and those in financial hardship from entering or frequenting casinos in Singapore. Essentially, Singapore's approach has been to maximise the financial benefits of casinos while minimising their social drawbacks. Those safeguards have been enhanced now. Singapore citizens and permanent residents seeking to enter the casinos will have to pay higher entry levies even as MBS and RWS receive approval to expand their casino areas, and have their casino exclusivity period extended to end-2030, which means that no other casinos will be introduced till then. However, from 2022, the two IRs will have to pay higher casino tax rates under a new tiered structure.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2019, with the headline 'Placing bigger bets on entertainment'. Print Edition | Subscribe