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Singapore Relying on Casinos for Economic Growth

4 January 2011 by admin

This is not your father’s Singapore. In the new year, the Asian island nation is looking to casinos and tourism for economic growth, with manufacturing being deemphasized. It is a shift that is decades in the making, but still somewhat surprising for an ultra-conservative country that wants everything to be feng shui.

Marina-Bay-SandsLast year, Singapore opened the first two casinos in the nation’s history and though the casino industry is new, it is key to the country’s future. Singapore has one of the strongest and fastest growing economics in the world. Last year, when most countries saw a severe economic downturn as a result of a global recession, Singapore still saw a 14.7% economic growth. Only Qatar is believed to have had greater growth in 2010.

The economy in Singapore is growing, but not by focusing on what has always worked for them. Instead, the growth is due in part to a shift in industry. Historically, Singapore’s economy was based on manufacturing, but in recent decades they have lost most of their low-end manufacturing industry to the nearby markets in China and Vietnam. As a result, they have shifted from low-end manufacturing toward high-end products, such as pharmaceuticals. That manufacturing couldn’t cover the gaping hole left by the lack of low-wage manufacturing, though, so the country set its sights on tourism and entertainment.

ResortsWorldSentosaOn February 14, 2010, Resorts World Sentosa opened to the public. On March 27, 2010, Marina Bay Sands casino followed. The two casinos have created over 20,000 jobs. According to economic experts, Singapore expects the casino industry to be their largest growing industry this year. They also expect the casinos to bring in considerable tourism dollars, especially from China, where gambling is illegal in the mainland.

To appeal to Chinese players, the casinos incorporated feng shui into their architecture and operation. Even their grand opening was feng shui, with the two casinos opening at 8:28 and 3:18, respectively, since eight is considered a lucky number in Chinese culture.

Focusing on tourism and entertainment is a big shift for Singapore, but one the government expects to be beneficial in the long term. Just because they are turning to gambling for economic growth, however, doesn’t mean they’re not wary of potential problems that sometimes accompany it. The government, which is known for their strict laws and low crime rate, requires residents pay an entry fee of SG$100 for a 24-hour admission to a casino. Residents can also pay SG$2,000 for access for an entire year. The high entry fees are intended to keep problem gamblers away from the casinos.

In addition to the fees, the government has placed almost 200 people on an exclusion list at the request of their families and another 2,000 at the request of the individuals themselves. The government has also vowed to crack down on loan sharks and predatory lending. If you don’t know anything about Singapore’s law enforcement, let me just say that they are serious when they say they’ll crack down on a problem.

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