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29 April 2010

Singapore's Marina Bay Sands May Give Packers Crown City Of Dreams Run For Money, by Greg Tingle - 29th April 2010

The land based casino wars continue to heat up, and 'Our James'... Australian James Packer is in the thick of the action.

Packer's Star City casino faces increased competition down under in Australia from Sydney's revamped Star City, and now Sands has opened in Singapore, in a move that insiders say will lure whales and dolphins away from Crown's City Of Dreams and Crown Macau, but don't underestimate the loyalty to Packer. Many have bet against the Aussie - Asia Pacific casino king before and lost. Media Man and Gambling911 with the story...

The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is one of the biggest and most expensive casinos every built. Having opened its doors two days ago, throwing down the gauntlet... the dust is just starting to settle. Insiders say James Packer is at the top of the list of other operators who need to stay on guard and answer the challenge.

The US based gambling monster Las Vegas Sands constructed the complex, understood to have a price tag of $US5.5 billion (AUD$5.9 billion), on Singapore's prime waterfront. Eventually it will sport some 2500 hotel rooms and suites, but how many will be used, and by whom, remain questions front of mind.

Like many modern day casinos, they are incorporating more entertainment themes and amenities, getting away from being a pure gambling den. Try your luck on the cleo and monopoly slots, Wheel Of Fortune and table games, then head on over to the theme parks and concert stages. Stage left, stage right.

CEO of Marina Bay Sands, Thomas Arasi, says look forward to the opening of 963 hotel rooms, part of a shopping mall and convention centre, celeb chef restaurants, dining outlets and no doubt a few other surprises.

The powers that be are rolling out the finishing touches in phases.

Phase 2 includes the Sands SkyPark on the rooftop, Event Plaza along Marina Bay, a retail plaza and additional dining amenities. Can't wait for the 60-seat restaurant spearheaded by chef master Tetsuya Wakuda. Mark your calenders for 23rd June.

The project is owned by worlds leading casino tycoon Steve Wynn, the brains and money behind the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas as well as developing the Cotai Strip and Venetian Resort in Macau.

Marina Bay Sands, the second casino in Singapore, following the Sentosa Island project, will be run by a former Crown executive, Mr Andrew McDonald, who has also represented Malaysian developer Genting and who has the experience and apparent connections to lure gamblers (whales and dolphins on the radar) away from Packer's Crown. Just play nice McDonald, or bad fortune and 'Underbelly' themes may get written into the script. We think the region is big enough for all to do well, even prosper, so lets keep it friendly competition, with emphasis on the "friendly".

A Media Man birdie reckons the new casino is surely targeting the same patrons as Crown Melbourne, some understood to also frequent Crown Macau. Cast the rods far and wide boys... you don't know what you'll catch on the other end! Primarily Oriental high rolling VIP's plus. Singapore is home to one or two of the whales.

Singapore enjoys its status as a financial and private banking icon and this is just another measuring stick whales and dolphins are understood to take into consideration.

Packer connected Crown is well aware of the threat from Singapore dragon by throwing some $212 million into further upgrading its VIP facilities to appeal to high-rollers. Excuse me sir, jot that down... Mr Packer and Billionaire Inc want your business. Can we offer you some lucky money, and perhaps some lady company for you're pleasant stay with us? A Media Man insider whispered, "I think some new games are going to be released... catch a fishy and catch a pussy slot, or something. James Bond would be proud of what these Crown boys are coming up with to help counter ... and count her!"

It plans to extend the casino's Mahogany Room by 50 per cent and build a new exclusive gambling club containing private suites.

Singapore, with its two super casinos, is unlikely to overtake Macau, says our spies, but may steal or at least borrows high-rollers from China as operators shift premium business to the city-state, taking advantage of an effective tax rate of 12% compared with roughly 39% in the Chinese territory.

Neighbouring Malaysia's sole casino, run by Genting Singapore's parent, Genting Bhd is also tipped to lose some business to Singapore's newer casinos with extras plus, for those who can afford the best.

Marina Bay Sands has also teamed up with coach operators to offer 130 daily trips from various Malaysian cities to its kingdom, but make not mistake... whales and a good catch of dolphins on the side, are what this is about. It's about return on investment and the bottom line... oh, and happy customers also.

May all fortunes be showered with good luck and let's keep the "casino war" friendly shall we. Still plenty of fish in the sea (but only so many super sized whales). Happy hunting and good punting.

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company

*The writer owns shares in Crown Casino

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