Tuesday, April 19, 2005


(FACTS TAKEN FROM http://www.channelnewsasia.com)

One of the cleanest and strictest countries in the world approves a casino to be built here. Oh, not only one, but two! One of them will be built at Marina Bayfront and the other on Sentosa Island. This will mean the southern parts of Singapore will soon become the gambling center. Everything should be ready by 2009 and will cost S$5 billion. Yesterday was the deadline day to announce in parliament of the final decision of the government to go ahead with the project.

From the very start when talks about building a casino took place, there should not be any debates going on about the bad impacts it will bring. Singapore is such a materialistic and commercialized city, there is no reasons for me that they don't want to earn the money for the sake of moral values? Sigh, if they started to approve to bar-top dancing and making prostitution to be 'legal', what is gambling compare to all those?

Creating jobs for 35,000 people as well as boosting the tourism industry are the two main excuses the government gave for the decision to build a casino. Why don't they admit that it is just for the money? We all know so directly that building casinos is about generating lots and lots of profits. The rest are just secondary. The main reason you make a decision for something is because of the profits it generates. That itself is the ultimate goal. The other excuses are just to tell people how caring the government are to 'contribute' to the public's interests.

"We are not aiming to become like Las Vegas or Macau, where gambling is the main industry. We will not allow casinos to sport garish displays on the facades and have jackpot machines everywhere from the lobby to the toilets. An integrated resort will be as decent and wholesome as a SAFRA resort or an NTUC Club. The gaming area will be separate," said Mr Lee.

The gaming component is expected to occupy no more than 3% or 5% of the total area of the integrated resort developments, which will also have a wide range of world-class leisure and entertainment choices. Rightly so, it may only take up 3%-5% of the area, but it will take up 90% of the profits of the resorts. Perhaps even 95%.

He said: "We cannot stand still. The whole region is on the move. If we do not change, where will we be in 20 years' time? Losing our appeal to tourists is the lesser problem. But if we become a backwater, just one of many ordinary cities in Asia, instead of being a cosmopolitan hub of the region, then many good jobs will be lost and all Singaporeans will suffer. We cannot afford that."

"After I took over as Prime Minister, the Cabinet discussed how to proceed. The public feedback showed clearly that some Singaporeans had strong views against the proposal. The Ministers themselves were evenly split. Some accepted the arguments for the integrated resorts. Others thought it sounded too good to be true. They also shared the qualms of the public about the social impact," Mr Lee added.

"They asked: are the promised spin-offs real or fluff? Are the economic benefits worth the social and law and order fallout? What safeguards can we put in to discourage Singaporeans from gambling? If we discourage Singaporean gamblers, will investors still find the project viable?"

PM Lee was skeptical too. To get a better idea of what they were dealing with, the Cabinet asked for the full concept proposals, and the quality of the plans swayed the Cabinet.Even so, when the Cabinet met and decided on April 9, the decision was not unanimous.

It became obvious when other Ministers spoke during Monday's parliament sitting that they had struggled with their personal convictions on the casino issue, but set these aside in the interests of Singapore.

Mr Lee said the Cabinet's split views reflected the sentiments of Singaporeans. He acknowledged the social fallouts from having casinos and promised safeguards.

For instance, there will be a high entrance fee for locals - $100 a day or $2,000 a year. The money will go to the Totalisator Board to be used for charity. A system will also be set up to prevent those in financial distress or on social assistance from entering the casinos.

A National Council on Gambling will also be set up to address addiction problem and there will be programmes to treat pathological gamblers. The government has also made clear that it will support and fund programmes to increase public education against gambling. It will also continue to work with religious groups to help those who could be adversely affected. They are just supporting both sides to show that they are caring and gets support from both. Smart move.

Now that the decision has been made, PM Lee urged Singaporeans to move on to help make the integrated resorts a success. This is very contradicting. Is he saying that people should go gamble to support the casinos 'indirectly' to support the resorts? Hmmmm......

Indeed, some who argued vociferously against the casinos seem likely to close ranks and accept them.

Said Fong Hoe Fang from the Family Against The Casino Threat In Singapore: "They have listened and considered the issue, yes. But it is still a shame and a pity that for 40 years we said 'no' and now we blinked. Most Singaporeans would close ranks now, it's in their nature. Still, I would expect some reactions for the next few weeks." Haha! In Singapore, when the government says "yes", it means "yes". No arguments accepted. Profit is more important than moral values.

Bishop Robert Solomon, vice president of the National Council of Churches of Singapore, said: "We are disappointed we are going in this direction. On our own part, we need to educate members on the casinos, the dangers of gambling, and perhaps develop services and help train members to help those with gambling addiction, and promote family values."

In preparation for 2009, they already planned the medicines ready for the expected sickness to occur. Prevention cannot be done anymore, income/profit is far more important in this competitive world. Cure is better than prevention, medicines generate money. Hehe!


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