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Glitz, glamour and ... geeks?

Susan Tsang | Aug. 20, 2008
Casinos have long been associated with glitz and glamour, but with IT systems becoming critical for the gaming industry, Susan Tsang reports that the 'geeks', and their handiwork, are becoming increasingly entrenched in Asia's 21st century gaming palaces.
With competition in the gaming industry intensifying, IT is going to become more important than ever in the workings, not only of casinos, but of the entertainment resorts that are being built around new generation gaming developments.

Gambling palaces

Chances are, if you live in the Asia Pacific, some of these gambling palaces are already setting up near you. After years of holding out against casinos, governments in the region are acknowledging the economic benefits, and tourism-boosting abilities, of gaming.

The general idea is not to encourage gambling per se, but to stimulate regional economies which are feeling the need to maintain growth in the face of increasing nearby competition.

The Singapore government, selling the idea to a doubtful public, explained that the 'integrated resorts' (IRs) it was proposing, would boost tourism, which was facing fierce competition from Hong Kong and Thailand. Furthermore, the IRs would also bring in billions of dollars in investment, and create up to 35,000 jobs, both directly and indirectly.

Two years ago, Singapore awarded licences to two projects to develop two integrated resorts-casinos, with other amenities such as hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, convention centres, theatres, museums and theme parks.

The goal is to double visitor arrivals to the island state to 17 million by 2015.

Las Vega Sands, which won the bid to build the Marina Bay Sands resort on a site at Singapore's Marina Bay, has committed US$3.67 billion and plans to open by next July. Three 50-storey hotel towers are expected to be built around the casino.

Genting International, which already runs two casinos in Malaysia, won the contract for the lion city's second casino, a US$3.85 billion venture, including a Universal Studios theme park and a huge outdoor marine park, due to open in 2010 on Singapore's Sentosa island. Genting's casino resort is central to the government's US$9 billion redevelopment of Sentosa.

This April, Star Cruises and the Alliance Global Group entered into a 'heads of agreement' to jointly develop and operate hotel and casino complexes in the Philippines.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the Global Entertainment Media and Outlook: 2008-2012, anticipates that major casino projects in Pasay City, in the Philippines, and in Singapore, will boost overall gaming growth in the region.

Three casinos opened in South Korea two years ago, with Malaysia's Berjaya planning another US$600 million casino and hotel resort on Jeju island. Not willing to be left out, Japan, Taiwan and Thailand are also looking into legalising casinos.


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