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Casinos Raising Stakes on Year of the Dragon

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Singapore. Casino operators are preparing for the entry of what they hope is the luck-bearing dragon.

With just three weeks to Chinese New Year, the two casinos are putting their chips on crowds of punters in the Year of the Dragon. The dragon is a mythically auspicious creature for the Chinese.

Indeed, gaming analysts expect visitor numbers and gaming volume to peak during this period, with gaming revenues hitting at least twice the average amount.

The two integrated resorts (IRs) – Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa – are roping in more hands, with some staff rostered to help in areas beyond their usual scope of work. Casual workers are being hired too.

Retailers and restaurants at the IRs are drooling with anticipation as they hope to snag the spillover business from the casinos. Some are stocking up on goods while others are beefing up staff strength.

Jonathan Galaviz, managing director of international casino gaming consultancy Galaviz & Company, said: “There is no doubt that the upcoming Chinese New Year period will bode well for the casino gaming industry, particularly because of the auspicious Year of the Dragon.”

Melvyn Boey, gaming analyst and head of research for Asean at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, agrees. But he believes the Dragon Year will not have a significant flutter on the customary practice of Chinese punters during the period.

He said: “In casinos elsewhere, the revenue over Chinese New Year is generally two to three times the usual, regardless of the zodiac sign.”

He said the economic situation is a better guide than the zodiac sign on the propensity of casino visitors to gamble.

Madam Lin Deng Li, chairman of Golden Travel Services, which specializes in China inbound tours, said its customer numbers over Chinese New Year are up by at least 10 per cent, compared with last year’s figure. She said: “Chinese travelers like to visit Singapore during Chinese New Year because the weather in Singapore is warmer and they can try their luck at the casinos.”

Both IRs declined to elaborate on how they will cope with more casino visitors, other than stepping up overall manpower.

Boey noted that the casinos, which have yet to use up their allotted 15,000 sq m of gross gaming floor area each, may cater to increased demand by opening more gaming tables and slot machines. He felt too that the casinos may optimize the use of the gaming tables by raising the minimum bet, for example, from $25 to $50 for some games.

At Resorts World Sentosa, non-frontline staff get the chance to help direct traffic, usher guests, serve in eateries and manage crowds at Universal Studios Singapore. Last year, 500 staff volunteered.

At Marina Bay Sands, more casual labour will be hired to assist in frontline positions. Similarly, tenants at the IR, such as gift manufacturer Risis, will be doubling staff numbers while Chinese restaurant Jin Shan has hired 15 part- timers. Meanwhile, the National Council on Problem Gambling will intensify its mass media and outreach efforts during this period when gambling activities are likely to be heightened.

Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia. To subscribe to Straits Times Indonesia and/or the Jakarta Globe call 021 2553 5055.

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