Singapore’s first casino complex takes shape

March 10th, 2009 - 11:30 am ICT by IANS  

By Christiane Oelrich
Singapore, March 10 (DPA) The tiny city state of Singapore at the tip of the Malay Peninsula currently boasts what is probably Asia’s largest construction site. Despite the global economic downturn, workers toil here around the clock, seven days a week, to build Singapore’s first casino complex.

The Marina Bay Sands is scheduled to open in December and apart from the casino proper it will comprise a convention and exhibition centre, some 300 shops and luxury boutiques, a museum and three hotel towers, each of them 200 metres high, with a combined 2,600 beds.

“We are of course fully aware of the current economic crisis, but this is simply a unique project,” said Bradley Stone, who not only oversees the Singapore property but is also responsible for other projects around the world for the US-based casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp.

“Singapore is already well known as a (tourist) destination and has a world class infrastructure, thus we are very bullish that there is lots of interest (in the casino),” Stone added.

The financial crunch had almost bankrupted Las Vegas Sands at one point, but overhead slashing, debt consolidation and selling off some properties saved the day for the firm.

While the company froze some projects in Macau, the Singapore project will go ahead as planned, costing an estimated $5.5 billion.

The complex is being erected on a piece of reclaimed land on the shoreline of Singapore.

The hotel towers with 59 storeys are about half erected, and the view from the 21st floor of the construction is already magnificent, with Singapore’s skyline in the north and across the ocean in the south.

“Some 7,500 workers are employed on the construction site every day,” explained Austrian national Rudy Betschoga, senior construction manager for Marina Bay Sands.

Although the foundations were only laid in 2007, the four-storey casino building as well as the convention centre, which incorporates a rooftop ballroom that can accommodate 6,600 guests, will soon receive their roofs.

The three hotel towers will be linked by a massive glassed-in atrium. “It is so high that it could easily hold the Statue of Liberty,” explained Betschoga.

But the masterpiece of architect Moshe Safdie is without doubt the open-air sky park that will straddle the roofs of the hotel towers.

It will harbour some 600 palm and other trees and a 146-metre-long swimming pool. On the western side, the platform will protrude a full 65 metres over thin air, theoretically enough to park an A380 Airbus.

For the small city state of Singapore the project has created public enthusiasm because of the 30,000 new jobs it will create.

The 40-year ban on casino gambling was lifted in 2005, and Marina Bay Sands will become the first of two planned casinos.

The government is to charge high entry fees in an attempt to keep locals away, but guests from the Middle East, Russia and the rest of gambling-crazy Asia will be welcomed with open arms.

“When the going gets tough we all go gambling, it’s the Chinese way,” said an ethnic-Chinese newspaper reporter, who has no doubts about the success of the casino.

Sands Corp’s Bradley Stone admitted that he also gambles occasionally.

“After all, I have to know what kind of thrills our future customers are going to seek,” he said.

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