Las Vegas on track for third place among world’s gambling meccas

Already behind Macau, Vegas could trail Singapore in gambling revenue this year

AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

The Marina Bay Sands is seen against the skyline in Singapore on Feb. 17, 2011. Singapore’s second casino-resort had its grand opening, a massive $5.7 billion project by Las Vegas Sands Corp. that aims to make over the city-state as a Southeast Asian gambling and tourism magnet.

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Cocktail waiters admire the financial skyline during their break on June 24, 2010, in Singapore. Singapore's second casino-resort's sky garden, which boasts a 160-meter infinity pool overlooking the city-state's financial skyline, opened Thursday, a massive $5.7 billion project by Las Vegas Sands Corp. that aims to make over the city-state as a Southeast Asian gambling and tourism magnet.

Ever since Singapore overturned a casino ban and opened the nation to Las Vegas-style casino resorts in 2005, financial analysts have predicted its eventual dominance as one of the world’s biggest gaming markets.

Singapore, already a major financial and tourism hub in Asia, would quickly overtake the Strip in two to three years, they said.

That may be happening faster than expected.

According to an estimate this month from Royal Bank of Scotland, Singapore’s two casino resorts are on track to generate gambling revenue of $6.4 billion this year, higher than the Las Vegas Strip’s anticipated $6.2 billion. Both Las Vegas Sands-owned Marina Bay Sands and Genting-owned Resorts World Sentosa opened last year.

The estimates put Singapore in second place behind Macau, which years ago eclipsed the Strip’s gambling revenue. Macau is expected to dominate the global casino business because it’s the only place in China -- a nation of growing wealth, with a proclivity for gambling -- where casinos are legal.

UBS stock analyst Robin Farley last week said Macau gambling revenue is expected to grow 33 percent this year, up from a previous estimate of 28 percent. Macau is on track to generate $31.5 billion in gambling revenue, Farley said in a research note to investors.

Dropping to third place, the 42 casinos on the Las Vegas Strip reported $5.8 billion in gambling revenue last year. That’s a 15 percent decline from the market peak in 2007, when there were 38 casinos on and around the Strip.

Some analysts question Singapore’s early dominance over the Strip. Singapore’s gambling revenue has outperformed initial projections from 2005, Las Vegas-based gaming consultant Jonathan Galaviz said. Still, he called the Royal Bank of Scotland estimate “aggressive.”

“Singapore’s casino revenues should begin to level off in 2011, but a figure of over $5 billion in revenues is certainly within reach,” said Galaviz, chief economist of Galaviz & Co. and an adjunct professor at UNLV’s satellite campus in Singapore.

The strong Singapore dollar, which has risen more than 20 percent in value against the U.S. dollar in recent years, could help the region eclipse the Strip, he added.

Singapore’s two casino resorts are supersized versions of their Las Vegas counterparts, each one the size of two or three of Strip megaresorts. Beside all of the trappings of a Vegas resort, like theaters, shopping centers and convention facilities, Singapore’s resorts feature large, all-ages attractions like theme parks, marine attractions and museums.

“What exists in Singapore is really the Las Vegas model of integrated entertainment,” Galaviz said.

The Singapore government legalized casino resorts not to overtake Nevada as a gambling destination but to double tourism traffic and spending -- a goal that’s well within reach, said Fredric Gushin, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, which did consulting work for the Singapore government.

Singapore was already a cultural and tourism attraction in Asia before the arrival of casino resorts, Gushin said. The resorts cater to well-to-do visitors, including those with second homes in Singapore, who appreciate the region’s reputation for law and order, he said.

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  1. I'd rather play blackjack in Singapore at 3:2 than blackjack in Vegas at 6:5. As we try to steal more from each visitor we are slowly killing ourselves. Thank you, Harrahs/Caesars.

  2. Inexcusable! Thank you Homeland Security (for classifying all foreigners as terrorists and not giving visas) and thank you Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (for still not realizing US travelers have nothing compared to others in the world and for being too lazy to "follow the money"). Politicians had better stop heeling to their loser friends at Caesars and the Nevada Resort Association and listen to Wynn and Adelson. They have been saying for years what they're still not hearing. Ed Uehling

  3. Lightfoot, do you have the plane fair for a trip to Singapore?

    Good article Liz. The information is accurate, we will this come to past very soon. Growth in casino gaming is overseas, value is here in America. Somehow we have to do a better job in getting the message out. We must market to increase our visitor count among other things.

  4. Longtimevegan, how you gonna provide better customer service here in Vegas?
    By people commenting about smoke and a possible smoking ban from some prissy employee?
    It starts with the people here to understand that they are working in a SERVICE Industry! They are here to service customers, like in Asia. If they don't and having complaints about their environment they are working in,....get out, work somewhere else! Once this gets realized, I am sure people like to come back to Vegas more than traveling to other Gaming Destinations! Many employes are spoiled from the past, get real and deal with the facts and reality! The good times are past, now you need to work,....again!

  5. If they been provided better environment or not, they still will have something to moan about! Complain a little more about smoke in the Casinos and a Million Dollar Player who is smoking, you will see how long you are around in this environment to have a job. Because this player can go elsewhere nowadays! Maybe the dealer or server in Macau or Singapore does not complain when he smokes!
    People forget that the work in a privileged Industry. An Industry not everyone is capable and entitled to work in and with. That's why you are still paid way more than anyone else out in the reality! Stop complaining about it or simply get out! That is what hurts the Industry more than anything else,....attitude!
    It is been called Service Industry for a reason!

  6. The bigger the boom, the bigger the bust. Look at Las Vegas, we thought the bubble would never burst. I only hope Singapore can learn from our mistakes. They put the culture and infrastructure before the gambling so they are already two steps ahead.