Singapore nets casino windfall

SINGAPORE, January 11, 2011 (AFP) - Singapore's two casino resorts have netted the government a multimillion-dollar windfall despite thousands of visitors being barred in a bid to fight problem gambling, officials said Tuesday.

Second Minister for Finance Lim Hwee Hua said the Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands casinos had dented the revenues of local gaming industry, which included lotteries and horse and sports betting.

She told parliament that the government earned revenues totalling Sg$420 million ($324 million) from the two casino-powered "integrated resorts (IRs)" from April to November.

"The net increase in revenues to the government with the entry of the IRs was about 420 million dollars... The entry of the IRs have also led to a restructuring of the gaming industry as a whole," she said.

"While the IRs have brought in new revenues, collections from other gaming activities such as lotteries, horse and sports betting, and fruit machines operated by clubs have fallen."

Singapore's casinos at the Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands opened to great fanfare in February and April, respectively, as part of a strategy to boost the services sector, including tourism.

However, the government said it had also taken steps to prevent an increase in social ills associated with casinos, with measures including barring certain people from the casinos.

Data disclosed in parliament Tuesday showed that, by the end of the year, more than 31,000 of the city-state's five million people had been given "exclusion orders" prohibiting them from entering casinos.

About 27,500 of these were undischarged bankrupts and individuals receiving financial assistance from the government, who are automatically barred from the casinos.

The rest included those who voluntarily sought to have themselves banned from the casinos and people who had been issued with exclusion orders at the request of their families.