History made: Singapore's first casino opens
At exactly 11.18pm on February 14, 2010, Singapore joined the ranks of other cities such as Macau and Las Vegas when Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) officially opened the nation's first casino.
Together with the Marina Bay Sands -- set to open in the next few months -- the opening of the so-called 'integrated resorts' are aimed at bolstering tourism to the city-state.
Whether by coincidence or intent, this day was the first day of the Lunar Year of the Tiger, as well as being Valentine's Day, making it a double red-letter day for both the country and Resorts World Sentosa.
Possibly due to the significance of the date, there was added excitement. A large crowd turned up, forming a queue before the official opening to grab bragging rights to be the first visitors into the casino complex. (It previously had been hidden away from public eyes and surrounded in a veil of secrecy.)
It has been almost five years in the making. In April 18, 2005, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the cabinet's decision to develop two casinos with attached hotels and malls in Marina South and Sentosa Island. These were subsequently given the euphemism of 'integrated resorts' to lessen the emphasis on gambling and allude to the entertainment and tourism value of the casinos.
At the opening ceremony, chairman of Resorts World Sentosa and the Genting Group, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay said, "In less than three years since the time we broke ground and commenced construction for Resorts World Sentosa, we have taken our vision from drawing board to reality. This is a significant milestone in Singapore’s business history. We promised to deliver a true integrated resort, and we have not deviated from that."
A traditional lion dance performance marked the official opening, with two pairs of Chinese lions from both Malaysia and Singapore drawing reference to the collaboration between the Genting Group, which is based and operated mainly in Malaysia, and the Singapore government.
At 12.18pm, one hour after the private opening ceremony, RWS welcomed the first public guest into the casino. Despite the steep entrance levy of S$100 for Singapore citizens and permanent residents, the queues started to form as early as 8am that morning. The S$100 levy is a mandatory fee imposed by the authorities as part of the efforts to limit the social impact of casino gambling, which also includes several exclusion schemes regulated by the newly formed National Council on Problem Gambling.
First in the door was Josephine Chan, who joined numerous others that had lined up for the occasion.
Experiencing Resorts World Sentosa
The casino floor itself is vast, stretching over 15,000 square meters, with 530 gaming tables and 1,300 slot machines spread throughout the complex. An estimated 13 million visitors are expected for the first year of operation, and when fully open over 10,000 people will be employed, according to officials. RWS is also looking at different events to attract gamblers and visitors -- poker tournaments and championships high on the list.
The casino opening is part of the initial phased opening for Resorts World, which began on January 20 with the opening of its four hotels (Crockfords Tower, Hotel Michael, Festive Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel Singapore). The FestiveWalk shopping and dining promenade soft-opened on January 30.
For the casino opening, there were a day of festivities -- including the debut of its public attraction, Lake of Dreams, and evening previews at the Universal Studios theme park.
According to Channel NewsAsia, despite the fact that none of the 20 rides and shows at Universal Studios will be ready, the Universal Studio preview tickets have almost been sold out to visitors eager to get a taste of the attractions.
Tan Hee Teck, chief executive Officer of Resorts World Sentosa, said, "We know a lot of Singaporeans are looking forward to the opening of both our major elements, the casino and Universal Studios Singapore. We are ready to soft-open the casino but are still fine-tuning the rides and shows in the theme park, which are still on schedule to open in the first quarter of 2010. However, since it's Chinese New Year, we decided to offer Singaporeans a week long preview of Universal Studios Singapore with a special and unique first-to-see walk-through opportunity. The theme park’s unique restaurants and shopping venues will be open for guests, although rides and shows will not be operational."
For a better look at what Singapore's first casino looks like, check out our image gallery above, or watch the clip of the Chinese lions performing the chai ching (採青) ceremony at the grand opening of Resorts World Sentosa.