Focus on Asia: The value of vision

February 1, 2024 10:00 AM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Ben Blaschke — Managing Editor, IAG
February 1, 2024 10:00 AM
  • Ben Blaschke — Managing Editor, IAG

I recently wrote an opinion piece in which I questioned the vision Australian state governments have for the nation’s integrated casino resorts (spoiler alert: there isn’t one) and compared them to Singapore, which a little over a decade ago developed one of the world’s most successful IR jurisdictions with a clear ambition to put Singapore on the international tourism map.

This contrast in approach (one jurisdiction clearly values the role its IRs play on the tourism front while the other is actively trying to devalue them) has only been further heightened by recent announcements around multi-billion-dollar upgrade and expansion works for Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS). One could reasonably argue that – so successful have these two properties been since opening in 2010 – investing in such expansion works is the only way they can possibly keep up with growing demand.

Compare that to Crown Sydney, which recently closed one of its two gaming rooms and reduced the operating hours of the other because international high rollers have been driven away.

But enough about Australia – this column is really about celebrating Singapore’s success.

In November, Genting Singapore announced it was increasing the size of its investment into the expansion of RWS from the initial US$3.3 billion first proposed in 2019 to US$5 billion, stating its confidence that this would “firmly anchor RWS as the most sought-after tourism destination in Asia and propel the Group’s strong future growth.”

RWS has long played second fiddle to the grandeur of its local rival MBS, but this expansion project is clearly designed to up the ante by developing a high-end waterfront structure that will add 700 more hotel rooms and “experiential lifestyle content”.

This comes with RWS having reported a considerable 33% increase in revenues to US$507 million in 3Q23 – with profit of US$258 million. Analysts are upbeat on the property’s long-term prospects and the potential ROI of its expansion project. And don’t forget the prized scalp of one Andrew MacDonald, the long-time Singapore-based Chief Casino Officer of Las Vegas Sands, including Marina Bay Sands. MacDonald now has the exact same position at RWS and his long-term MBS experience will be an enormous asset for RWS.

MBS, meanwhile, is also preparing to invest as much as US$4 billion into its own expansion, primarily the addition of a fourth hotel tower to the current tri-pronged IR that has become such an iconic feature of Singapore’s skyline, plus almost US$2 billion into upgrading its existing facilities – a more than US$5 billion total investment into its future.

It also pushes the combined investments of RWS and MBS into upgrades alone towards the US$10 billion mark – a spectacular vote of confidence in the future of Singapore’s IR industry.

There is no doubt MBS has fulfilled the Singapore government’s vision, establishing itself as one of the most Instagrammable structures on the planet and a destination in its own right for travelers the world over. To take in the spectacular outlook from the dizzying heights of its SkyPark Infinity Pool is a bucket list item alongside anything Paris’s Eiffel Tower, London’s Big Ben or the Taj Mahal in India can offer.

And from a business point of view, MBS has proved a resounding success for its owner Las Vegas Sands, building a reputation as the most profitable casino in the world and closing in on annual EBITDA of US$2 billion.

Having well and truly left the challenges of the COVID years behind, Singapore’s integrated resorts are a shining example of what can be achieved when government and industry work collaboratively towards a clearly defined and mutually beneficial goal.