James Ashton: Come to Singapore, but be aware of the rules - chewing gum is bad, gambling is very, very good

Global Outlook It is hard to reconcile buttoned-up Singapore's transformation into the world's second-largest gambling mecca. On the one hand, chewing gum is banned and possession of a few grams of cannabis can lead to instant imprisonment. On the other, one of the original Asian tigers opened a crystal-topped cathedral of gambling four years ago that has been a roaring success. Stud poker is a particular favourite.

Singapore's move into gaming on a grand scale came when the Government, intent on building the city state's tourism trade, licensed two so-called "integrated resorts" with gaming at their heart. The most prominent of these is Marina Bay Sands, whose three towers, with a "sky park" featuring an infinity pool balanced along the top, dominate the bay-side skyline.

Of course it isn't just gaming. Reportedly built for a cool £4bn, there is row after row of luxury shops and high-end restaurants. Sheldon Adelson, chief executive of Las Vegas Sands, which owns the complex, made his first fortune from the Comdex conference business, so it stands to reason there is an exhibition centre too, plus an arts and science space, currently featuring the furniture design of Charles and Ray Eames, in a lotus flower-shaped building that Mr Adelson christened the "welcoming hand".

A mid-range suite complete with baby grand piano, karaoke room and personal gym could set you back £5,000 a night. David Beckham and Justin Bieber have sampled the facilities at one time or another. Altogether, it makes its sister resort, The Venetian in Las Vegas, look like something from Toytown.

Marina Bay Sands' boss, George Tanasijevich, is thrilled with how it has traded since the doors opened, with revenues ramping up faster than he expected. Despite the perception that it is drawing in "off the leash" middle-class Chinese, he reports that the biggest-visiting nationals are the Japanese, making up a fifth of guests.

Locals still have a slight unease about it all. Mr Tanasijevich talks about how the group is adept at "balancing social and commercial interests". That means it is marketed squarely at incomers, with advertising in Singapore kept low-key and locals who want a flutter made to pay a £50 daily entry fee, or £1,000 per year, when foreigners can walk in free.

Opening up to gaming has been a key part of Singapore's tourist vision. Initially, the idea was to get business people to tack a few days on to their work trip. Then they were encouraged to bring their families. Now that it has its own Universal Studios on Sentosa Island, together with a second casino complex and man-made beaches, they can stay a little longer.

Regional rivals Japan and South Korea have been left spluttering at the success. Mr Tanasijevich, who is also charged with looking out for new development opportunities for Las Vegas Sands, says they are the two countries keenest to build something similar. But it is interesting that Europe remains a black hole for these developments. In December Las Vegas Sands canned a project dubbed Eurovegas, which would have created six casinos and 12 hotels outside Madrid, following fallouts with the Spanish authorities. Of course, every government must decide the price that is worth paying for a boost to tourism numbers and tax revenues. But Eurovegas, expected to support up to 250,000 jobs, could have helped to ease Spain's youth unemployment crisis.

Back in Singapore, decision time is looming. It has already overtaken Las Vegas to lag only the former Portuguese colony of Macau as the world's top gambling den. When the exclusivity enjoyed by its first two casino resorts runs out in 2017, will the government be able to resist licensing a couple more?

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears