SINGAPORE (May 7): Higher entrance levies haven’t stopped rich Singaporeans or those just feeling lucky from flocking to the country’s only two casinos.

The city-state has received about $1.3 billion in entrance fees from citizens and permanent residents since 2010 even as tourists are allowed to enter for free, Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said in response to a question in parliament Monday.

Levies for Singaporeans and permanent residents to enter either Resorts World Sentosa or the more glitzy Marina Bay Sands were raised to $150 a day, or $3,000 a year, last month. That’s up from $100 and $2,000. Singapore initially introduced the charges to deter locals from gambling.

“The daily and annual entry levies serve to deter casual and impulse gambling by locals and are part of a holistic suite of social safeguards,” Teo said. “Between 2010 and 2018, the number of local visitors to the casinos declined by 50%.”

Singapore said last month it would extend the exclusive licenses for the two casino operators until 2030 after they pledged to invest $9 billion in additional tourism attractions. Las Vegas Sands Corp’s Singapore venture will build a fourth tower at Marina Bay Sands plus a new entertainment arena, while Genting Singapore’s Resorts World will construct two new theme zones and enlarge its aquarium.

For the new attractions to remain commercially viable, the government also agreed for both operators to increase their gaming facilities, beyond the current approved 15,000 square meters and 2,500 gaming machines each. Marina Bay Sands will be given an option to expand its gaming area by an extra 2,000 square meters and add 1,000 more machines, while Resorts World can choose to add an extra 500 square meters and 800 more machines.

As part of the overall expansion, the duo will pay around $2.3 billion for extra land, the New Paper reported, citing Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat.

The $1.3 billion collected will go to the Tote Board, a government body that funds social and community programmes.