SINGAPORE (Apr 5): With its dramatic architecture of three curved hotel towers, topped with the world’s biggest cantilever, Marina Bay Sands (MBS) has become an iconic representation of Singapore.

Now, Singapore’s two integrated resorts – MBS and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) – are undergoing a $9 billion expansion as part of the city state’s bid to revive its flagging economic fortunes.

“The opening of the two IRs put Singapore on the map as a tourist destination,” says Chua Hak Bin, a senior economist at Maybank Kim Eng Research.

Yet, some have observed that the IRs have lost their novelty value, particularly in the eyes of the high rollers. Annual gaming revenues at the casinos have been relatively flat y-o-y. Competing properties in the region have also emerged.

Meanwhile, economic growth in Singapore is flagging, amid uncertainties in the broader economic environment. And already, the Singapore Tourism Board is cautioning that the seemingly strong growth in tourism could lose steam from this year.

The government has been commissioning reviews of economic drivers in a bid to revive growth. Would the expansion of the IRs arrest any decline?

Unfortunately, market watchers do not expect the expansion to give the same economic boost as the initial investment, even though the expansion is seen to be positive overall for the Singapore economy, particularly for tourism-related industries.

“Many other countries are stepping up their airport infrastructure and tourism attractions. Japan is currently requesting for bids and proposals for three IRs across different cities. The Philippines and Macau are still building more casinos to cater for the high-end VIP market,” says Chua.

Ramping up the IR investment is part of the long-term plan of the Singapore government. But the enhanced IRs will still be only one driver of Singapore’s economic growth. Will it be enough to keep Singapore ahead of the competition and drive the nation’s next phase of growth?

Find out more in our cover story this week (Issue 876, April 8) IR 2.0 and Construction, banking, hospitality, F&B stocks could benefit from casino expansion. Or click here to subscribe