Singapore casino proposal closer to fruition

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SINGAPORE -- Singapore moved a step closer to building its first casino after the government received backing for the project from a tourism advisory group.

In July, the government revealed plans to build a $600 million, mixed-use resort development on the island of Sentosa that would include hotels, convention facilities, a theme park and the city-states first casino.

Last week, the International Advisory Council for Tourism said in a statement that it unanimously supported the development of an integrated resort that would include a casino. The council was formed in 1999 to advise the tourism board on long-term strategies for tourism development.

The integrated resort is an attractive idea, but for it to be truly successful, it must be a significant investment project that boasts world-class facilities, said Ranjit Malkani, chairman of India and Asia Kuoni Travel Group and a member of the advisory council.

The casino proposal has attracted interest from some of Las Vegas biggest casino operators, including MGM Mirage and Harrahs Entertainment. In addition, Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho has expressed interest in the Singapore plan.

The Singapore government is eager to cash in on gaming, which is dominated in the region by Macau, the Philippines, South Korea and Malaysia. According to a spokesman for the Singapore Tourism Board, the government will review the advisory boards decision before issuing a formal Request for Proposal to potential developers.

Singapore wants to use gaming as a way to enhance its appeal as a convention destination. Last year, Singapore hosted more than 500 conventions that generated $370 million, according to the tourism board.

To contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].

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