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January 21, 2010

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Singapore opens its first casino on island

SINGAPORE'S first casino-resort partially opened yesterday, a key part of a government plan to reduce reliance on manufacturing and brand the city-state as a cosmopolitan Asian capital.

Resorts World Sentosa, built by Malaysia's Genting Bhd for S$6.6 billion (US$5 billion), opened 1,340 rooms in four hotels, including a Hard Rock hotel and a property designed by architect Michael Graves.

Its 7,300-seat ballroom, one of Asia's largest, will host its first event later this month.

A Universal Studios theme park is expected to open in the coming weeks on the sprawling 49-hectare complex on Sentosa.

No firm date has been set, said Genting Chairman Lim Kok Thay, contradicting reports it would open next week.

The resort's casino, the city-state's first, is expected to open in March after Genting's application for a license was delayed to December when gambling authorities asked for more information.

Officials said it will probably take three months to process the license.

The government expects Resorts World, along with the expected May opening of the Marina Bay Sands casino resort, to increase the country's gross domestic product growth by up to 1 percentage point, boost tourist arrivals and add 35,000 jobs.

With a well-educated population that speaks English, Chinese and Malay, Singapore is increasingly focusing on finance and tourism, said Irvin Seah, an economist with DBS Bank in Singapore.

"It's the area which we really want to fully exploit and it's where we have a comparative advantage in the region."


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