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21 January 2010

Singapore witnesses soft launch of Resort World Sentosa

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Singapore's first casino-resort partially opened Wednesday, a key part of a government plan to reduce reliance on manufacturing and brand the tightly controlled city-state as a cosmopolitan Asian capital, the Associated Press reported.

Resorts World Sentosa, built by Malaysia's Genting Bhd for 6.6 billion Singapore dollars ($5 billion), opened 1,340 rooms in four hotels, including a Hard Rock hotel and a property designed by architect Michael Graves.

Its 7,300-seat ballroom, one of Asia's largest, will host its first event at the end of this month.

A Universal Studios theme park is expected to open in the coming weeks on the sprawling 49-hectare complex on Sentosa, an island a quarter of a mile off Singapore's coast.

No firm date has been set, said Genting chairman Lim Kok Thay, contradicting reports it would open next week.

The resort's casino, the city-state's first, is expected to open in March after Genting's application for a license was delayed to December from October when gambling authorities asked for more information.

Officials have said it will probably take three months to process the license.

Singapore - known for its ban on chewing gum sales and canings for crimes some countries would rule as minor - strictly controls public speech and assembly though has become socially more liberal and allowed greater artistic freedom in recent years.

The decision to allow casinos followed a rare national debate though the government's desired outcome was never in doubt. The government expects Resorts World - along with the expected May opening of the Marina Bay Sands casino resort - to increase the country's gross domestic product growth by up to 1 percentage point, boost tourist arrivals and add 35,000 jobs.



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