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Rod Smith

Inside Gaming: Analysts Wonder If Singapore Plans Sensible

25 July 2005

Plans for investing $3.5 billion in two Singapore casino projects have Wall Streeters shaking their heads. More than one-third of the casino revenue is projected to come from Singaporean high rollers who now gamble abroad. But why would they stay home when Singapore bans credit for local players? Second, the privacy of players is not protected as it is in the United States. Furthermore, the government wants the resorts marketed only as destinations, not casinos, with less than half of their revenue coming from gambling. So Wall Street wants to know where the players will come from when "there's no there there?"

Anecdotally, it seems foreign visitors, who account for a growing share of Las Vegas' tourists, are arriving in far fewer than projected numbers, thanks to fears from security measures. Worse, casino executives say planned federal visa and passport rules meant as security precautions are sending a signal, Fortress America does not like foreign visitors. Visa and exchange student applications are way down since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Visitors who have come say the message back home, especially in Europe, is that the land of the free has become the land of hassles.

Despite recent fear-mongering over labor costs, Glaziers Local 2001 recently accepted a one-year contract extension with a modest 4.6 percent increase in wages and benefits. Most local building and construction trades have wrapped up recent contracts with increases of only 3.5 to 4.5 percent. Some contracts are still up, but union leaders expect similar terms and deny there are demands for of the under-the-table "premiums," as some executives claim.

National media are labeling Atlantic City a copycat destination. The new House of Blues is said to be a "Vegas-style" nightspot, modeled on its sister at Mandalay Bay. The Havana-themed Quarter at Tropicana is "Vegas-style" with faux palms and sky-painted ceilings. The Pier at Caesars will mirror the Forum Shops. Plus there's the Borgata expansion and plans are being worked up for towers at Resorts and Showboat. And all this is aimed at entertainment, not spinning for dollars.

A catalog, "Room D cor to Go," is one of the most popular handouts guests get at the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas. Everything in the place is for sale, but some of the prices are surprising. A 30-inch TV goes for just $1,700, but the Cal King Wynn Dream Bed by Sealy mattresses are $2,435. Seems stiff. A Warhol print can be had for $60, a king-size sheet set for $289, rugs for $25 or the jade bowls for $425. But for the cheap-at-heart, slippers go for $12 and a clear tumbler for $6.