Singapore Prime Minister Issues Dire Outlook for City-State Casino Resorts

Posted on: November 22, 2020, 12:04h. 

Last updated on: November 18, 2022, 06:59h.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says international travel is unlikely to return to pre-COVID-19 levels until at least 2022. That’s not what Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa — the country’s two integrated resort casinos — want to hear.

Singapore casino resort Marina Bay Sands
With Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong predicting a long road to tourism recovery, more difficult times could be ahead for Marina Bay Sands. (Image: Marina Bay Sands)

Lee has led the island city-state’s government since 2004, but 2020 has been a year unlike any other. And the prime minister doesn’t see a quick recovery on the horizon.

Travel is not going to return to normal next year. Maybe in two years’ time,” Lee opined Thursday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Participating APEC countries include Singapore, United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Canada.

“You cannot just go back to the old rules where you buy a ticket and within a few hours you get on the plane,” Lee continued.

Lee says governments will continue jockeying to protect their own people. “If I have more cases than you, you are afraid of me,” the leader declared. “Once you have that kind of relationship, it is very difficult to open up.”

IR Business

Singapore has reported 58,143 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. But only 28 people have died as a result of the respiratory disease. The US Centers for Disease Control nonetheless has issued a “Warning — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel” on Singapore.

“COVID-19 risk in Singapore is high,” the bulletin states. “Travelers at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should consider postponing all travel, including essential travel, to Singapore.”

Singapore forced its two integrated resorts (IR) to shutter operations in early April. They were permitted to reopen July 1.

The two massive multibillion-dollar complexes are struggling to keep their rooms filled and casino floors busy amid the ongoing pandemic.

The Singapore Tourism Board reports that in Q1 — the latest disclosed three-month period — tourism spending dropped 39 percent. International visitor arrivals were down more than 43 percent, and the hotel industry saw room revenue plummet 31 percent.

And this was all before the pandemic truly set in, and led to Singapore going into a lockdown with stay-at-home orders. Q2 and Q3 will be even worse for the two parent casino companies — Las Vegas Sands and Genting Group.

Guests who are making their way to RW Sentosa or Marina Bay Sands must undergo temperature checks prior to entry and wear face masks while inside.

New Regime

Singapore’s two casinos will be regulated by a new authority in the new year.

Beginning in 2021, the Singapore Casino Regulatory Authority will be replaced with the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA). The newly formed agency, Singaporean government officials say, will be better equipped to respond faster to emerging products and trends.

Last year, Genting and Sands both received licensing extensions through January 2031. But in their agreement with Singapore, they must each invest another $3.3 billion into their properties — considerable capital during a global pandemic.