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Asia Bets on Las Vegas-Style Casinos

20 April 2005

ASIA – As reported by the BBC: "Several Asian countries are easing restrictions on casinos, taking a bet that Las Vegas-style gambling halls will attract more tourists and create jobs.

"This week Singapore agreed to build two casino resorts aimed at overseas visitors, ending a 40-year-old ban.

"…Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore, a tightly run city-state of four million people, had to stay competitive in the Asian tourist market. "We cannot stand still," he told parliament. "The whole region is on the move. If we don't change, where will we be in 20 years?"

"…Singapore wants to double the number of tourists it receives within 10 years - and sees casinos as the way to achieve this. Other countries in the region, including Thailand, Japan and Indonesia, are considering following suit.

"…Governments are taking note of the booming casino industry in Macau, a former Portuguese colony which returned to Chinese rule in 1999.

"…But many social and religious groups in Asia remain opposed to casinos and organised gambling on moral and practical grounds.

"…Thailand is among the other countries in the region mulling its options on organised gambling.

"…Government officials have floated the idea of licensing casinos in tourist resorts, and a Malaysian gaming company has already reportedly offered to build a glitzy casino near the holiday island of Phuket.

"But observers say Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra needs to tread cautiously or risk incurring the wrath of religious leaders…"

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