MBS needs its 30% local gamblers

From ‘MBS does a balancing act with local gamblers’, 11 June 2011, article by Grace Leong, Business Times

The Singapore government has told Las Vegas Sands to ensure that not more than 30 per cent of all visitors to its casino at Marina Bay Sands are Singaporean, a top company executive revealed.

‘We are basically told that as long as only about 30 per cent of the people coming in are Singaporean, then it shouldn’t be a problem. If the amount of Singaporean attendance gets much higher than that, there may be some cause for concern,’ Michael Leven, Las Vegas Sands president and chief operating officer, said.

That 30 per cent figure isn’t published, he said in an interview last week with Inside Asian Gaming. ‘That’s what our numbers have been, roughly 30 per cent Singaporean. That doesn’t seem to cause any problem.’

To this day, only about 3 per cent of Singapore’s population has ever played in a casino, he said.

But a spokesman with the Ministry of Community Development did not confirm the 30 per cent cap, saying only that ‘the IR operators have been told very clearly that the casinos are tourist products and they are not to target the domestic market’.

…’You’re always going to have in the casino business some people who overplay. That’s part of the business, but the great majority of people can control themselves and I don’t think we’re creating more poverty in Singapore because of our presence. But if that were to happen, the government would have every right and every reason to come in and try to restrict play.’

But he said that Sands needed local gamblers in order to support its investment in integrated resorts. ‘We have to have some local play in order to be consistent when we don’t have conventions and we don’t have tourists. Otherwise, you’ve got an awful lot of overhead sitting there not generating any revenue.’

Let’s assume that the average number of daily visitors to MBS casino, according to this ChannelNewsAsia article in 2010, has been hovering around 25,000. 30% of 25,000 is about 8250 Singaporeans daily. According to the Singapore census for 2010, our Singapore residents number around 3.7 million, which is a conservative take on what one means by ‘Singapore population’. Which means 3%, or 111,000 Singaporeans have visited a casino at least once. ONLY 111,000 Singaporeans, as Mr Leven nicely puts it.

Let’s try to put this figure in perspective.  There are as many local casino visitors as there are voters in Bishan Toa Payoh GRC (111,677).  There are almost thrice as many casino visitors as there are doctors and nurses combined in 2010 (37,872) (Singapore in Figures 2011), or the total number of babies born in 2010 (37,967). There are more casino visitors in less than 2 years than the total number of visits to the Singapore Phiatelic Museum in 10 years. (107,400) (Yearbook of Statistics 2010).

The point is, how do we know when it has become a ‘problem’? And how do we know that this ‘problem’ isn’t already happening? Can someone please define what this problem is? On what moral grounds do we have luring foreigners here and then shifting the burden of their habit, perpetuated through our casinos, back onto their own countries? By all means, protect our own citizens, but our sense of social responsibility shouldn’t be constrained within our home boundaries. In fact, a recent surge of scams from foreign fraudsters among other crimes, soliciting included, is exacting costs on our police force. It is also foolish to assume that 1) Tourists are all clean, gullible, rich and can afford to lose, and 2) If they get into trouble they’ll pack up, go home crying to their own people and leave us alone. The fact that the two casinos were in a sneaky free shuttle bus bid for heartland gamblers last year is proof enough that they can’t survive just on tourist traffic, and the fact that our government is pussyfooting on a ban on locals entirely just means that even they know this to be true as well.


2 Responses

  1. Uncle Goody: must put more perspective into your figs. U are assuming that 1) the 111,000 are all Sgporeans and not Sgporeans n PRs and b) that number actually comprises largely single-visit visitors. Unless MBS specifically separates PRs from Sgporeans? If so, what’s the PR portion?

    How would it look if in fact that up to 80-90 per cent are repeat visitors? For example altho only 3% of Sgporeans have visited MBS, it would be an entirely different ball game if 80-90K of these visitors –horrors — have made multiple visits like moi 🙄

    Lastly, wot proportion of the 70% non Sgporean visitors are in fact our poor WP holders, who I see all over the casino floors, any time and any day I visit, especially now that free drink stations are set up everywhere and no need to wait for the push trolleys any more. That’s the real tragedy of the casinos, I think 😦

    • Yeah i didn’t distinguish sgreans from prs.shld it matter?And yeah its not clear from the claim of 3% whether its adjusted for multiple visits. Though from the phrasing ‘3% of sg population has ever played in a casino’ i took it at face value assuming that this stat was done via a survey or by counting individual registrations. It would have been clearer if the report put it in absolute figures 110,000 visits (cant be cos i read a report that more than a million visits were local in 2010 alone), or maybe its a matter of misleading reporting i wouldnt know.

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