Posts Tagged ‘Singapore integrated resorts’

Singapore casinos beat long odds

June 30, 2011

Bulletin (new date): My interview on Macau’s TDM Talk Show will be televised on its Portuguese channel on Saturday, July 2 at 8pm (Macau/Hong Kong/China time; Saturday 8am US Eastern time) and be repeated Sunday night/Monday morning at 12.30 am. After the initial airing, you can watch it on the TDM website via the TDM Talk Show link. Hope you’ll tune in for my talk (in English) with Natalya Molok about Macau gaming, Hong Kong On Air – the perfect read for this Hong Kong Reunification Day weekend, as well as July 4th – and Writing Camp.

Plenty of experts doubted that Singapore’s experiment with two casinos would succeed. Not because of Singapore’s straitlaced reputation, nor because of unprecedented public opposition to the so-called integrated resorts (IRs). The issue was money.

Marina Bay Sands at $6.9 billion and Resorts World Sentosa at $5.7 billion are the two most expensive casino resorts ever built. (MGM’s $9 billion-plus City Center in Las Vegas includes residential and office components.) “They’ll have to be much more successful than the most profitable casino in history,” a skeptical analyst told me while the IRs were under construction.

A year after the grand opening of Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s two IRs have become the world’s two most profitable casino resorts, helping fuel a tourism boom in Singapore. Yet, as I wrote in Asia Times, there’s little joy over the achievement.

Earlier this year, I highlighted the fun gap at Marina Bay Sands amid its renowned architecture. That report in Macau Business also examined the odd departure of Marina Bay Sands CEO Thomas Arasi after delivering company record profits. Sometimes, it seems, money alone can’t buy happiness.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Singapore keeps experimenting

July 5, 2010

While in Singapore for the grand opening of the Marina Bay Sands casino resort, I had an evening out with Dennis Foo, CEO of Saint James Holdings and Singapore’s leading nightlife impresario. We started at Saint James Power Station, a ten club complex that Foo created inside a decommissioned electric generating plant. The different room feature entertainment from Canto pop to hard rock to Paraguayan acoustic, and, even on a Wednesday night during World Cup, the place was hopping.

After giving me the tour, Foo suggested we check out Shanghai Dolly. As in most Foo’s clubs, live entertainment is big part of the Shanghai Dolly experience. There are about 20 Shanghai Dollies, including some male Dollies, singing mainly in Mandarin and dancing in the vast downstairs bar area with tables and a dance floor. In the best tradition of modern Singapore, the show is sexy but not sleazy. Upstairs, there’s a restaurant that serves food until 3:30am, and a piano lounge, where a Dolly tickles the ivories and sings alone with a partner. A fellow patron assured me that I could request songs in English.

Shanghai Dolly’s success seems natural; Foo claims it’s the highest grossing club in Singapore – but Foo reminded me that he took over the site from Crazy Horse Paris. Singapore’s government brought in a branch of the French topless cabaret to boost tourism and demonstrate that it had grown up into a modern, progressive city, no more nanny state. Crazy Horse was a dismal failure. Singapore’s casino resorts are another bold step with the same aim. As I wrote in Asia Times, even the boldest step is simply the first step along a lengthy road to success, or failure.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Casinos make bad bets in Asia

May 7, 2010

The world’s two most expensive casino resorts are now open in Singapore, whether the Lion City likes it or not. As I wrote in Asia Times, Singapore didn’t want casinos, just the theme park, convention center, museums and other attractions that it was able to squeeze out the developers in exchange for allowing the gambling dens. However, Singapore’s nanny state ways limit casino revenue. That promises trouble for developers Las Vegas Sands and Malaysia’s Genting Group that are investing a combined $10 billion in their resorts, and for Singapore, too.

Singapore isn’t the only Asian city where casino developers are placing bad bets. Billionaire Steve Wynn’s infatuation with China’s government and disdain for the Obama administration got another airing at last month’s debut of his Encore Macau property. Wynn’s plan to plunk down another couple billion dollars in Macau illustrates precisely why to be wary of Macau, especially if you’re Steve Wynn.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.


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