Jun 5, 2010

The Great Casino Report (First Visit to Marina Bay Sands)

Marina Bay Sands from Bayfront Bridge

I was getting impatient. Since Resorts World Sentosa opened its door in January, my Facebook has been inundated with photos taken in the integrated resort (IR). Uploaded by my female friends, they show the girls having fun at Singapore's first IR and gosh, how you wish you were there with them as well. Unfortunately none of them checked out the most important attraction and I am not referring to the theme park.

Make no mistake, this attraction is the raison d'etre for the IR. No attraction, no euphemism - no IR. On its existence, one eminent politician was reportedly to have said "over my dead body" when the attraction was mooted. Today both politician and attraction are alive. Such is the attraction being a life and death matter for our nation.

Since I developed a natural aversion to Sentosa after construction transformed the island, I decided to pay the dear attraction a visit at Marina Bay where the second IR is located. It would be a good chance to try out the Circle Line as well. So what is this attraction? You got to be kidding if you are still thinking of Universal Studios.

CC4 Promenade and Millenia Tower
Guess where is this glass building? This is not a quiz though the reflection gives you a clue.

Millenia Walk and CC4 Promenade
The opening of CC4 Promenade Station brings great convenience to folks visiting Marina Bay - SG Flyer, park, floating platform, F1 pit building - and Sands. Millenia Walk and Tower in the background.

Walk the short distance along Temasek Ave. to Raffles Ave. If you see a ship stranded on top of three sky-scraping towers, do not panic. That is your destination Marina Bay Sands. At the waterfront promenade between Benjamin Sheares Bridge and Marina Bay Floating Platform, you have three ways to the stranded ship Sands.

Three Ways to Sands
Left: Bayfront (Vehicular) Bridge. See those cabs? There's a $3 surcharge if you take them from Sands.
Middle: The bridge pavement. Much safer than [jay]walking along the road.
Right: Helix Bridge. A unique crossing experience.

For a nation who wants #1 in everything, that the Helix Bridge scored a first (in architectural and engineering bridge design) is no surprise. The Bridge promises a memorable crossing experience with spectacular views of the city skyline. At night you are in for a treat as the bridge lights up.

I am a little amused over the choice of name (the bridge was originally named 'Double Helix'). Shouldn't such a bridge be in Biopolis or Science Park? A helix bridge is incongruous in an area famous for NDP celebration, F1 racing, business, leisure and entertainment. We can only speculate as to their hidden agenda. Our blogger friend Victor made an interesting observation that the bridge is sucking .. what?

Helix Bridge and Sands
Helix Bridge from one of its viewing platforms (total five of them) looking towards Sands.

Helix Bridge and Floating Platform
Helix Bridge from one of its viewing platform looking towards the NDP Floating Platform.

The bridge was officially opened on April 24 but the last stretch (ending at Sands) was blocked when I visited in early May, as parts of Sands were still undergoing construction. A crowd had gathered enjoying a sneak peek. What were they looking at? I joined them in the voyeurism.

Helix Bridge: Sneak Peek
The crowd enjoying a sneak peek. How many people are there? Are you sure? Count again!

Helix Bridge: What are they looking at?
What are they looking at? Curiosity got the better of me and I sneaked up behind to find out the answer.

Since Helix Bridge was blocked, we had to cross over to Bayfront Bridge and in no time, I was in the Shoppes. The interior was still undergoing the last bit of renovation and not yet the promised shopping paradise. I found out possibly the cheapest dining place in Sands and a most disappointing canal within the Shoppes. Out of the Shoppes, the Event Plaza offered a good view of our city skyline.

The Shoppes @ Marina Bay Sands
The Shoppes@Marina Bay Sands - marketed as Singapore's first large-scale luxury shopping destination. Upcoming retailers include Dior, LV, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Prada etc. Orchard Central and Takashimaya dethroned?

The Shoppes @ Marina Bay Sands
Possibly the cheapest dining place in Sands, a place to visit for a taste of local favourites. I think they call it the food kiosks.

The Shoppes @ Marina Bay Sands
Canal to enjoy a boat ride in the Shoppes. A bit lame if you realize the disappointingly short distance .. and what parent company Las Vegas Sands built in Venetian Macao.

Event Plaza and City Skyline
Event Plaza with spectacular view of the city skyline. After crazy splurging inside the Shoppes, recharge your Vitamin M - the non monetary kind - out in the open.

The star attraction inside the Shoppes was also its most important attraction. With gross earnings higher than any of the retail shops', it would generate at least $1 billion in annual profit. Never had our government tolerated such an attraction on that scale until recently. Now we have two of them!

Welcome to the Casino. :)

Marina Bay Sands Casino
Sands Casino Opening. The arrow leads to riches .. destruction .. or just pure fun?

The casino opened on 27 April. I visited Sands on 2 May, barely one week after its opening, to check out the IR and especially "public reaction" to the casino. With the $100 levy for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents, will the casino still enjoy a brisking business?

Marina Bay Sands Casino Visitor Queue
Long queue to enter the casino. The most memorable part of it, other than the length, was that a few guys - possibly our foreign workers - were thrown out of queue due to their dress code. One of their jeans was torn at the kneecap.

Looks like it did. Congratulations to Sands but unfortunately the potential to rake in more profit could not be realized due to the levy and other restrictions - e.g. Singapore limits the number of slot machines whereas Macau has no such limit. I just showed you the foreigner queue. There is no local queue in the above pictures. When gambling analysts tell us locals are the primary market, we wonder how much revenue the two casinos are losing per day.

Marina Bay Sands Casino
The closest I get to inside the Casino, using my zoom lens. The local queue is empty. The long foreigner queue might mean: a) the casino is truly overcrowded. b) the casino allows only a trickle in at a time, for optimal gaming experience. c) documentary (passport?) checks are strict, therefore slow.

I have no figures on how much Sands and Resorts World are losing based on their potential. Well, nobody likes to be pessimistic. We have some winning figures though, but from an unexpected source with a tinge of sarcasm. According to this Feb 19 article:

With a laugh, Mr Lee said: "They want to gamble. I don't understand why they want to lose. You surely will not win."

In reference to Resorts World Sentosa, which opened its casino on Sunday, Mr Lee said "the boss counted S$3.5 million" on the first day and S$3.7 million on the second day.

Marina Bay Sands Casino SG/PR Queue
The almost empty Singaporean/PR queue. I guess three groups of people enter the casino -those who just want to "see see, look look"; those who are serious about gambling playing; those who has became irrational and want to strike jackpot, no matter the cost. The $100 levy eliminates the first group from the queue. Like Victor said, who in the right mind will pay $100 to have a look?

I really do think the long foreigner queue was due to the stringent checks performed to verify the person is not PR or Singaporean. I came to this conclusion as observation does not square with figures. According to Sands' COO Michael Leven (source):

About one-third of Marina Bay’s casino visitors have been Singaporeans, who pay S$100 ($70.90) to enter, and the rest are either foreigners living in the city-state or visitors from countries including neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia, Leven said.

Of course, there is a possibility some foreigners really paid $100 for "privilege" to use the express lane. If this is true and Leven included PR in his definition of Singaporeans, then the deterrence is effective considering Singaporeans only constitute 60-70% of the local population. If you paid $100 to enter the casino, do tell me how the identity check is like, if any, at the payment counter.

Marina Bay Sands Casino Long Queue
Pretty usher inadvertently became my focus but I was really aiming for the long queue. While most of the people in the foreigner queue did not look local, I was a bit surprised some do. Look carefully, especially in the earlier photos.

While I was not entertained in the casino, I had fun watching the performers at the main entrance. They were not there when I arrived earlier.

The Shoppes @ Marina Bay Sands
Out they came on their long legs. What do we call them .. stilt walkers?

The Shoppes @ Marina Bay Sands
Beaming smiles as the uncle and aunties lined up for photo-shoot at the main entrance.

The Shoppes @ Marina Bay Sands
The 'Golden Statue' performer. Did the toddler behind think he was real? I see a golden dog in the bicycle basket .. err I hope they don't teach old dog new tricks. Can a dog be trained to sit motionless?

This concludes my first visit to Marina Bay Sands. When the Sands SkyPark opens on June 23, we have something to look forward again. The IR will be fully completed in December 2010.


me said...

will wait your blog after Dec 2010...maybe there will be long queue for local queue:p

Victor said...

Nice armchair tour of Marina Bay Sands, Icemoon. I didn't go as far as you did - didn't get pass the mid-point of the bridge.

peter said...

Sure lots of China girls (ala hookers) @3am @casino inside.

Icemoon said...

can't wait for the skybridge to open. hope can enjoy the stunning view free of charge.

thanks Victor. luckily you didn't get sucked into Sands, haha

Peter, you mean you sure or you saw? don't think you will pay $100 in the dead of the night. lol

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Oulette, thanks for your err .. interesting comment.

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