Taking a closer look at Singapore

Resorts World Sentosa comes into focus after Genting Group’s decision to build here

Joan Leong / AP

Interior of Resorts World Sentosa, Sunday Feb. 14, 2010 in Singapore. Resorts World Sentosa,built by Malaysia’s Genting Bhd for $4.7 billion, opened Singapore’s first casino Sunday.

Resorts World Sentosa

A hotel staff draws the curtains of a hotel room in the Hard Rock Hotel Singapore Wednesday Jan. 20, 2010 in Singapore. Resorts World Sentosa, built by Malaysia's Genting Bhd for USD$5 billion, opened 1,340 rooms in four hotels, including a Hard Rock hotel and a property designed by architect Michael Graves. Launch slideshow »

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

When talking about gaming in Singapore, local media — myself included — have focused on Sheldon Adelson’s magnificent Marina Bay Sands.

The Las Vegas Sands-owned property has stunning architecture: three 57-story towers topped with a flat surface more than 1,000 feet long. It’s called the Sands SkyPark, and it has a gorgeous 450-foot infinity pool for hotel guests, looking out over Singapore’s skyline.

There are observation points in different areas of the SkyPark, and one end has a view of the Singapore Flyer, the world’s tallest Ferris wheel (for now).

We have always focused on Marina Bay because it is owned by a Las Vegas company. But last week’s surprising announcement that the Genting Group plans to build a 3,500-room megaresort on the Strip will lead us to take a closer look at Singapore’s other casino, which I happened to visit in 2011.

For some, the name Resorts World Las Vegas seems unimaginative. But it’s a brand loyal customers know. There’s a Resorts World Sentosa and a Resorts World Casino New York City.

Now, a little background. There are only two casinos in Singapore, and that’s by design. The government in 2004 put out a request for proposals to build a pair of “integrated resorts.” (They really wanted to get around calling them “casinos.”)

The government required both projects to include entertainment, retail, cultural exhibits and convention space, in addition to casinos.

Sands, competing for the marina site, beat out MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment (then Harrah’s) and Genting. For Sentosa, an island off Singapore’s coast, Genting won the bid.

The developments took different directions.

While the Sands emphasized convention facilities, Genting took a more family-friendly approach. It collaborated with Universal Studios to build a theme park at the resort.

The entire island of Sentosa is dedicated to recreation and leisure. There’s a free monorail that glides from the mainland to three stops on the island, two of which serve the resort.

Resorts World Sentosa has six hotels in the complex. They serve a broad range of tastes, themes and prices. One includes only suites with butler service. Guests have to be invited to stay there.

In addition to the Universal Studios theme park, the resort has a Marine Life Park, billed as the world’s largest oceanarium. There’s also a separate water park.

Like most Asian casinos, the gaming floor at Resorts World is generously populated with table games, primarily baccarat. There are a number of Asian games you don’t see in American casinos. It will be interesting to see what the Resorts Worlds Las Vegas casino will look like since the company plans to cater to Asian guests.

Getting into a Singapore casino is an interesting experience in itself. The government tries to discourage residents from gambling by charging admission. Two lines form in the front, one for locals and one for foreigners. Nonresidents can get in for free just by showing a passport. Admission for locals costs about $80 for 24 hours or $1,605 a year.

When I was at Genting Sentosa, a colleague and I rode the monorail, roamed the Resorts World campus, checked out the theme park and shops, played sic bo in the casino, then hiked a nearby jungle preserve before riding back to the mainland on a cable sky ride.

How will tourists spend their days at Resorts World Las Vegas? Only time will tell.

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