by Chua, Alvin
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Marina Bay Sands Casino Time
Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is an integrated resort (IR) with a hotel, casino, retail mall, as well as convention facilities and entertainment venues including theatres, nightclubs and a museum. Sitting on a 570,000 sq m waterfront site at Marina Bay, MBS is operated by Las Vegas Sands (LVS) Corp.1 Since its opening in April 2010, MBS has been one of LVS’s most profitable properties. Its distinctive architecture includes three 55-storey hotel towers topped by the 12,400-square-metre SkyPark as well as the lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum.2
As part of a resort development plan for Sentosa and the southern islands, in March 2004 the Singapore government raised the prospect of lifting the longstanding ban on casinos. The Ministry of Trade and Industry then carried out a study on the economic, tourism and social aspects of having a casino within an IR, while the Feedback Unit held dialogue sessions with public groups including those from the religious, grassroots and business communities.3
Amid much public debate, the government – through the Singapore Tourism Board – invited concept proposals for IRs at Marina Bay and Sentosa in December 2004. The IRs would comprise casinos, but with restrictions such as entry fees for Singaporeans (S$100 per visit or S$2,000 per annum), curbs on advertising, and regulations on credit extended by the casinos.4
The casino component of the IRs was debated in Parliament in January 2005.5 By March that year, concept proposals for the Marina Bay IR were submitted by consortiums from the United States, South Africa, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong. The highest bid was S$5.8 billion.6 The following month, the government confirmed in Parliament that two IRs with casinos would be built.7
Shortlist and award
In November 2005, the government set the price of the Marina Bay site at S$1.2 billion, instead of calling for an open tender. This allowed bidders to compete on the strength of their concept proposals. The government also announced the judging criteria for the bids: tourism appeal (40 percent), architectural concept and design (30 percent), development investment (20 percent) and operator’s track record (10 percent). The winning bidder would have a 60-year land tenure and a 30-year concession for the casino, with a 10-year exclusivity period of the casino licence. Its gaming area was capped at 15,000 sq m.8
Four bidders were shortlisted: LVS; Harrah’s Entertainment partnered with Keppel Land; Genting International partnered with Star Cruises; and MGM Mirage partnered with CapitaLand. LVS had partnered with Singapore property developer City Developments Limited in its bid, but the latter withdrew subsequently, citing the invasiveness of probity checks.9
In May 2006, LVS was awarded the rights for the Marina Bay site. Its proposal had the highest investment value of S$3.85 billion, in addition to the land cost of S$1.2 billion.10 LVS’s strength in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions sector as well as the distinctive design elements of its proposed architecture were cited as key factors in its winning bid. Analysts had previously ranked LVS behind the other bidders, in part due to its lack of a local partner.11
Construction began soon after the project was awarded.12 However, LVS was reported to be in financial trouble in 2008. Its businesses were hit by the global financial crisis, which affected its ability to secure financing for its projects. Its share price fell more than 90 percent from peak levels and it was reportedly close to bankruptcy a number of times.13
In November 2008, LVS Chairman and Chief Executive Sheldon Adelson flew to Singapore to meet government officials and reaffirm LVS’s commitment to the MBS project. LVS then suspended developmental work on its projects in Las Vegas and Macau to concentrate its financial resources on MBS.14 It also raised S$3.2 billion through a stock offering, with Adelson investing over US$1 billion of his own money. In addition, LVS’s request to open MBS in stages was accepted by the government.15
The project continued to suffer construction delays, which were attributed to the high prices of concrete after an embargo on sand exports by regional countries and the bankruptcy of a number of subcontractors. Heavy rainfall and labour shortages also contributed to the delays and the project’s escalated cost, which amounted to S$7.7 billion. In December 2009, however, LVS announced that MBS would commence operations in April 2010 and open in phases.16
Layout and design
With a gross floor area of 570,000 sq m, MBS contains 2,600 hotel rooms across three 55-storey towers, as well as three low-rise domes housing a retail mall with over 300 boutiques, convention facilities for up to 45,000 people, fine-dining restaurants, casual eateries, two theatres that seat 2,000 each, an indoor skating rink and a casino. The casino holds 600 gaming tables (with a potential capacity of 1,000 tables) and 1,500 gaming machines. The resort also includes the ArtScience Museum, waterfront pavilions with retail boutiques and nightclubs, as well as other outdoor event facilities.17
Designed by Israeli-born Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, MBS’s most distinctive elements are its hotel towers topped by the cantilevered SkyPark. Spanning an area of 12,400 sq m and weighing 6.3 million kg, the SkyPark includes an observation deck, a swimming pool, restaurants, nightclubs and gardens.18 The ArtScience Museum is shaped like a lotus flower, while the low-rise domes feature wave-form roofs. Safdie also integrated some S$50 million worth of art installations within his design for the resort.19
MBS began operations on 27 April 2010 with a phased opening, and officially opened on 23 June in the same year. In its first full quarter, MBS reported S$631 million in revenue and a pre-tax profit of S$315 million. In the following quarter, revenue was S$560.4 million, but pre-tax profit rose to S$390 million. MBS’s financial performance in that second quarter broke LVS’s records in quarterly profit and profit margin, making MBS one of the most profitable properties in the LVS group. During its first year of operations, MBS drew 19.6 million visitors and hosted nearly 2,000 meetings, conventions and exhibitions.20
1. Lim, W. C. (2008, November 18). Govt may let IRs open in stages. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Boo, K. (2006, May 27). Las Vegas Sands wins Marina Bay IR bid. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Casino here is not a matter of money versus values. (2004, November 17). The Straits Times, p. 2; Casino resort study still in progress. (2004, June 17). The Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Chia, S-A., & Li, X. (2005, April 23). Worthwhile debate or not? It’s a toss up. The Straits Times, p. 15; Sim, G., & Wong, K. (2004, December 30). To get into a casino, pay $100 a day or $2,000 a year. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Chia, S-A., & Li, X. (2005, April 23). Worthwhile debate or not? It’s a toss up. The Straits Times, p. 15; The game so far. (2005, April 19). The Business Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Sim, G., & Wong, K. (2005, April 16). Big boys place bets on S’pore. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Chua, V. (2005, April 19). Go-ahead given for 2 integrated resorts. Today, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Loo, D. (2005, November 5). Why Govt set price of site at $1.2b.The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. The game so far. (2005, April 19). The Business Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Chong, G. (2006, May 27). The road to integrated resorts. The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Boo, K. (2006, May 27). Las Vegas Sands wins Marina Bay IR bid. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Tan, C. (2006, June 1). Construction boom expected from IR project. The Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Sands mogul seeks $3b. (2008, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Sim, A. (2008, November 12). Sands skimps on Macau, bets on S’pore. The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Lim, W. C. (2008, November 18). Govt may let IRs open in stages. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Lim, J. (2009, December 22). Sands says IR will be up and running by April. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Boo, K. (2006, May 27). Las Vegas Sands wins Marina Bay IR bid. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Duffy, A. (2010, May 11). Marina Bay Sands opens. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Yin, J. (2006, June 1). Crowning jewel. Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Kwok, J. (2011, July 28). Record profit for MBS from gaming. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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