It's been a big weekend for Singapore with the city's leaders celebrating the opening of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games - a S$400 million (230 million euros) - extravaganza they hope will put their city on the map as an international sporting destination.

And while there was much attention focused on the Games (http://www.singapore2010.sg) - which features 3,600 young athletes competing in 26 traditional Olympic events - Singapore had even more reason to rejoice with the release of figures that suggest the city's fledgling casino industry is closing in on the world's major players.

Traditionally conservative Singapore now has two casinos - at Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands - and the people behind RWS reported that guest numbers are now up to more than one million people per month.

The resort - which features a casino as well as Asia's first Universal Studios theme park - has targeted 13 million visitors a year and a spokesman was quoted in the local press on Saturday as saying most of those visitors were now coming from "Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, China and India.''

Spurred on by the significant success of the Chinese city of Macau, Singapore has invested heavily in its casinos, RWS cost around US$5 billion (four billion euros), and US$5.5 billion (4.3 billion euros) was spent on Marina Bay Sands, which was officially opened in July but opened the doors to its casino at the start of the year.

Local analysts say it is only a matter of time before turnover in Singapore passed that of the traditional gaming champion, Las Vegas, which is now the second largest market, behind Macau.

"Singapore is already the second-largest casino market in Asia after Macau and could potentially overtake the Las Vegas strip as the second largest casino market in the world after Macau in the next two to three years,'' analysts DMG & Partners reported.

It seems the island nation Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew was on the ball when he said he aimed to turn Singapore from a conservative little Asia retreat into a place where the world can come and play.

http://www.rwsentosa.com

http://www.marinabaysands.com

MS

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