MBS, RWS to expand casinos with S$9 billion investment plan; exclusivity until end-2030

The Government has agreed to allow the expansion of casinos at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), including “business certainty” that no other casinos will be built here until the end of 2030.

In a joint statement by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Wednesday (3 April), the S$9 billion investment by the two Integrated Resorts (IRs) is almost two-thirds of their initial investment of S$15 billion in 2006.

The additional investment will enable MBS to add a new entertainment arena and hotel tower while RWS will extend Universal Studios Singapore to include two new attractions, Minion Park and Super Nintendo World.

Besides that, MBS and RWS would be able to enlarge their 15,000 sqm Approved Gaming Area (AGA) to an additional 2,000 sqm and 500 sqm respectively, subject to additional land costs.

As the non-gaming areas will be expanded by a much larger area, the AGA as a proportion of total floor area will be reduced from 3.1 per cent to 2.3 per cent. However, MBS and RWS will be able to increase their gaming machines by 1,000 and 800 respectively.

According to MSF, the increase in casino levies for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents will be raised by 50 per cent to deter casual and impulse gambling.

The factors influencing this decision include the problem-gambling situation, changes in household income levels, the prevailing prices of alternatives to local casinos such as those in Genting in Malaysia and the general economic conditions.

The National Council of Problem Gambling (NCPG) said that it welcomed the increase in entry levy as well as the joint study by the IRs and MSF to implement suitable technologies that will help promote responsible gambling in casinos.

“We have seen examples of such systems in other countries that allow gamblers to set a budget or time limit for themselves and to get automatic reminders when they are nearing these limits,” said NCPG in its statement.

Meanwhile, a tiered structure for casino taxes will be introduced after the current moratorium ends in February 2022.

Former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) and member of the Workers Party (WP) Gerald Giam repudiated the expansion plan through a Facebook post.

He pointed out that the headlines did not focus on the fact that “MBS and RWS will be allowed to increase their approved gaming area by 13% and 3% respectively, and their allowed number of slot machines by 40% and 34% respectively”.

“The government says these concessions will help these casino resorts to remain “commercially viable” in view of their expansion,” he wrote.

Mr Giam then quoted casino magnate and owner of MBS Shelden Adelson in a CNA article that MBS has “exceeded all of our hopes in growing leisure and business tourism in Singapore.”

“This certainly sounds like MBS is exceedingly “viable”, which raises the question: Why is there a need to allow casino gambling to expand in Singapore?” he queried.