Monday, May 10, 2010

Gambling experiment proves costly for Singaporeans

It was very odd in 2005 when the government of Singapore, which always takes an intrusive and nanny-ish interest in the moral well-being of the Lion City's citizens, decided to allow gambling. Singapore's previous experience with gambling, back nearly 200 years ago when it was a British outpost, was that the usual accompaniments of crime, prostitution, drug addiction and loan sharking were hard to avoid.

But Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong believed a few casinos would give the city-state some added zing as a tourist attraction, especially for high-roller Chinese Communist Party officials who love nothing better than to gamble away state assets. So earlier this year two casinos opened in Singapore and last week the Straits Times newspaper published the first analysis by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch. Well, it seems efforts to dissuade Singaporeans from using the casinos by imposing a $70 daily levy and $1,500 for a year have not been successful.

Up to 60 per cent of the patrons are Singaporeans, who are betting the large amounts that were expected from the longed-for Communist party high rollers.

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