1. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, let me touch on the provisions of the Bill pertaining to the casino licence exclusivity period.
2. When the IRs were first introduced, we provided an exclusivity period of 10 years, during which the Government would not introduce any other casinos. This was necessary as the IRs had made substantial investments and needed some business certainty.
3. In 2019, the two IRs committed around S$9 billion in investments to build new world-class tourism and MICE facilities. Marina Bay Sands will introduce a state-of-the-art entertainment arena which will host world-class performances and an iconic new tower comprising a hotel and a rooftop attraction. There will also be additional MICE space to host exhibitions and conventions. Resorts World Sentosa will expand Universal Studios Singapore by almost 20% with two new themed zones, Minion Park and Super Nintendo World, and create a new Singapore Oceanarium. It will also re-develop its waterfront promenade and introduce a driverless transport system along the Sentosa Boardwalk to improve accessibility into Sentosa.
4. These investments will enhance the attractiveness and tourism appeal of Singapore amid stronger competition for travellers post-pandemic. Singaporeans can also look forward to more lifestyle and entertainment options.
5. To Mr Gan Thiam Poh’s question on the potential increase in economic contribution, based on our initial projections, the IR expansion is expected to contribute S$500 million annually to GDP in a steady state. The expansions will also create up to 5,000 new jobs directly, and benefit local businesses, especially in the construction and services sector.
a. As an example, last week I witnessed the launch of the Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) – National University of Singapore (NUS) Living Laboratory project. The Living Laboratory brings together NUS’ capabilities as a leading global research institute and RWS’ strengths as a world-class tourism destination. The project focuses on biodiversity and energy conservation and will help preserve and restore our natural heritage. This is in line with our SG Green Plan 2030 and Sentosa Development Corporation’s plans to transform Sentosa into a carbon neutral destination by 2030. Again, it will in turn enhance Sentosa’s appeal as a tourism and conservation destination.
6. These are hefty investments and a further extension of the exclusivity period was required, as the casino is a small but essential part of the IR, in that it makes the larger development and slew of activities which I mentioned earlier financially viable. The duration of the exclusivity period was arrived at after considering factors such as what the parties could offer, the social impact, competitive dynamics, and what the IRs deemed necessary from a financial viability viewpoint.
a. Clause 46(1) amends section 41 of the Casino Control Act to introduce this exclusivity period. Clause 46(2) amends section 42 of the Casino Control Act to reflect this updated exclusivity period.
Additional Gaming Provisions
7. For the new attractions and facilities in the expanded IRs to remain commercially viable, the Government also announced in April 2019 that the IRs would be allowed to have additional gaming machines and the option to purchase additional Approved Gaming Area (AGA). However, even if the IRs fully utilised their options, AGA as a proportion of total floor area would be reduced from 3.2% to 2.4%. This is because non-gaming areas will expand by a much larger amount.
8. As a pre-emptive measure to minimise the social impact of problem gambling, the Government raised the casino entry levies for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents by 50% in April 2019.
9. In response to Mr Gan Thiam Poh and Mr Louis Chua’s questions on the expected completion of the two IR expansions, the IRs remain committed to their expansion plans. However, with the disruption that COVID-19 has had on the construction industry, both IRs have indicated that there will be potential delays in the completion of their projects. And this is not altogether surprising nor unique to this project or this industry. COVID-19 has impacted construction timelines both locally and globally. And as the COVID-19 situation continues to, and in fact is evolving, and the IR expansions are complex, multi-year projects, the full extent of the delay is not yet clear.
10. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the IR expansion aims to provide new world-class tourism and MICE facilities. This will enhance Singapore’s tourism appeal, provide more entertainment options and jobs for Singaporeans, and benefit local businesses. To this end, Clause 46(1) and Clause 46(2) of the Gambling Duties Bill make amendments to the Casino Control Act related to the exclusivity period.
11. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.