In the first week of operations, the casino received more than 149,000 visitors, said Lim Soon Hua, Resorts World Sentosa assistant director of communications. Many were Singaporeans or citizens of neighbouring Malaysia, undeterred by the S$ 100 (US$ 70) entry fee.
The casino is on Sentosa Island, on the site of a former Malay cemetery. It is part of an “integrated resort” built at a cost of S$ 6.6 billion (US$ 4.7 billion) that includes a Universal Studios theme park, hotels and a convention centre on 49 hectares of land.
In the first week, visitors were mostly families in spite of the fact that the Universal Studios theme park and Marine Life Park oceanarium were not open. The latter will be the world's largest oceanarium, with 90 million litres of water and 700,000 aquatic creatures on an eight-hectare facility.
Until recently, gambling was banned in the city-state. Now a second casino, the Marina Bay Sands owned by Las Vegas Sands, is due to begin its phased opening in April.
Singapore's twin casinos are not expected to rival Macau, the world's largest gaming market, with its 33 casinos pulling in a combined US.36 billion in revenue last year.
In fact, the casino’s luxury shops were mostly empty and most visitors appeared to be local residents. A few luxury sports cars were seen in car park but nothing comparable to what might be found in places like Monaco or even Macau.
Up in the VIP rooms, the clientele were better dressed than the masses downstairs, with women sporting luxury brand handbags, and some gamers appearing to be mainland Chinese. Each VIP player is required to deposit at least S0,000 (US$ 70,000) before playing.
There were problems but they were expected. At least eight visitors fell afoul of the city-state’s no-nonsense law enforcement authorities. They include two Mongolians and five Singaporeans and permanent residents who were caught trying to sneak into the casino without paying the S$ 100 entry fee. An Indonesian gambler who said he lost all his money at the casino was jailed for four weeks, after pleading guilty to stealing a mobile phone.
Four of Resorts World's six hotels (the Hard Rock, Festive, Hotel Michael and Crockford, which feature 1,800 rooms) opened on 20 January. During the Lunar New Year holiday, they were fully booked. The resort's remaining two hotels, Equarius and Spa Villas, will open early next year.
Resorts World Sentosa expects 13 million visitors in the first year of full operations after the Universal Studios theme park opens later in the first quarter, said Krist Boo, a spokeswoman for Genting International, the Singapore-listed developer of Resorts World Sentosa.
Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was quoted in the Singaporean media as saying that the casino had winnings of S$ 3.5 million on its first day and S$ 3.7 million the second day.
Each integrated resort is expected to contribute a value add of S$ 2.7 billion (.9 billion) to Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015, roughly 0.5 to 1 per cent of GDP according to Singapore's tourism promotion agency.