Sands CEO says new resort will make S'pore major tourism destination

  Associated Press
May 30, 2006


THE head of the Las Vegas Sands Corp said Tuesday, May 30, that the US$3.6 billion (2.8 billion) casino resort project it recently won the license to build in Singapore would make the Southeast Asian nation a key conference and tourism destination.

President and CEO William Weidner said the Marina Bay Sands will be operating by 2009 and account for 1 percent of Singapore's annual gross domestic product.

He cited his company's integrated resort track record in Las Vegas - where it owns The Venetian - and its "Asian footprint" in Macao - where it operates the Sands Macao as key factors in their win of the hotly contested license, which was awarded Friday.

"One of the primary reasons we think we won is our position in the (meeting, convention and exhibitions) business," Weidner told a news conference. "It has been very important for us for decades and we bring that network and that expertise to Singapore. We believe that we can help reposition Singapore as 'the' worldwide destination in the region. We're dedicated to doing that."

He said the resort would "triple or quadruple" Singapore's meeting and convention visitors to nearly 900,000 annually, in addition to increasing tourism, a key goal of the city-state.

Singapore last year reversed its decades-old ban on casino gambling, and said it would award licenses to operate a casino resort at Marina Bay and another on the resort island of Sentosa to boost tourism and help the city-state shed its straight-laced image.

US casino operators have been rushing to expand in Asia to tap the region's fast-growing ranks of millionaires and middle-class consumers.

The design of the Marina Bay Sands project, by internationally known architect Moshe Safdie, incorporates three tall towers sharing a common rooftop garden - 170 meters (558 feet) above the ground and the size of an aircraft carrier - an arts and science museum, 1 million square feet (90,000 sq. meters) of retail space and a waterfront promenade.

It will occupy a 50.9-acre (20.6 hectares) waterfront site in southern Singapore, with a skyline view of the city. It emphasizes green architecture and open space, said Safdie.

Safdie, who designed the National Gallery of Canada and the new Holocaust History Museum at Israel's Yad Vashem memorial, said his 6-million square foot (560,000 sq. meters) design represented "the spirit of Singapore."

He said the art-science museum, with its dish-shaped roof that will collect rain into an indoor fountain, was designed as a "gesture of welcoming," and that the hotel complexes and roof park formed "a gateway to the city."

Weidner said Las Vegas Sands had received over US$6 billion (4.7 billion) of commitments from investment and commercial banks and others and was discussing the most efficient way to finance the project.

He said the resort, which will employ 10,400 people and create 30,000 jobs overall, would help Singapore accomplish some of its goals in terms of tourism and employment.

"It means the hiring and reskilling of older workers. It means enhancing the service standards of Singapore," he said. "It means addressing social issues like problem gambling. It means partnering with local business ... to make sure that we are doing the right thing in terms of maximizing the value for Singapore overall. It means enhancing the vibrancy of Singapore as a worldwide tourist destination."

The company plans to offer over 75 percent of the jobs created to Singaporeans, including key management positions, the group said in a statement.

Las Vegas Sands was selected for the Marina Bay license over three other bidding groups - MGM Mirage and CapitaLand Ltd, Harrah's Entertainment Inc. and Keppel Land Ltd, and Genting International PLC and Star Cruises Ltd.