Singapore allows $9 billion IR expansion, but raises taxes, entry fees

Singapore has allowed the first major expansion of its integrated resort industry since its two IRs began operating, involving S$9 billion ($6.65 billion) new investment in non-gaming amenities, but casino entry fees and taxes will also rise.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Finance said the investment from Las Vegas Sands and Genting Singapore would create 5,000 new jobs and bring in an extra half a million visitors a year.

The additional investment by the IRs is almost two-thirds their initial investment in 2006 (of about S$15 billion). In view of the substantial investment, the government has extended the exclusivity period of the licenses to the end of 2030.

It has also allowed each of the two IRs — Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa — to increase their total allowed gaming space and the number of gaming machines they can operate. MBS will be able to dedicate a further 2000 sqm to gaming and will be able to up its total number of gaming machines from 2,500 to 3,500. RWS will have an extra 500 sqm of gaming space and a further 800 machines.

However, the government points out that as non-gaming areas will expand by a much larger amount, the allowed gaming area as a proportion of total floor area will reduce from the existing 3.1 percent to 2.3 percent.

The IRs have indicated that the additional gaming provisions will be targeted at higher-tier non-mass market players, who are mainly tourists, the government said.

The new allowances come with a sting in the tail. The government plans to up the local entry fee from April 4 by 50 percent to $150.

At the end of a current tax moratorium in February 2022, it will also introduce a higher tax structure, which will also include more tiers. For premium gaming the rate will rise to 8 percent from 5 percent on the first $2.4 billion in GGR and will rise to 12 percent thereafter.

For mass gaming, the tax rate also gains by three percentage points to 18 percent for the first $3.1 billion in GGR and then 22 percent thereafter.

The latest move from the government is seen as a long-term positive for the two operators, despite an increase in casino entry levy for locals and tax increases, say analysts.

In terms of the individual plans, Las Vegas Sands said it will invest US$3.3 billion in a state-of-the-art 15,000-seat arena, a 1,000-room luxury hotel tower and additional MICE space.

The hotel tower will also include a sky roof with a swimming pool and a signature restaurant. Moshe Safdie, who designed the original property, and Aedas and Gensler are planning to be part of the team responsible for the design elements of the building.

“New luxury hotel accommodations and a world-class entertainment venue are exactly the catalysts we need to drive additional visitation to Singapore, and specifically to Marina Bay Sands,” said Rob Goldstein, the company’s president and chief operating officer. “The expansion of our Singapore IR is a key component of our company’s strategic growth plan and also reflects the strong tourism and business potential in Singapore. The additional hotel rooms are extremely important to us in addressing the demand created by our leisure and business tourists and our premium gaming customers.”

Resorts World Sentosa will expand Universal Studios Singapore with two new immersive environments – Minion Park and Super Nintendo World. It will also enlarge its popular S.E.A. Aquarium, taking over the adjacent Maritime Experiential Museum to create a new Singapore Oceanarium. Its Waterfront Promenade will be redeveloped to include a free public attraction featuring a nightly show and multi-purpose event zone that can be adapted for different festivals and events. Two new destination hotels, together with the expansion of the Central Zone, will also add up to 1,100 more rooms for RWS.