YES, the money is good. But we should not ignore the social
consequences that the Integrated Resorts (IRs) bring.
Several Members of Parliament (MPs) shared these sentiments with The
New Paper when asked what they thought of the IRs' impact on Singapore
since they opened their doors last year.
The consensus among the eight MPs is that the IRs have created jobs,
attracted more tourists, provided funding for our social services and
boosted our economy through positive spillover effects into other
sectors such as retail, food and beverage and transport.
Mrs Josephine Teo (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Marine
Parade GRC), Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) and Mr Baey
Yam Keng (Tanjong Pagar GRC) shared of how they have met Singaporeans
who found jobs in the IRs and IR-related industries.
One year on, the IRs appear to have a roaring business.
RWS spokesman Robin Goh said as of 5pm on Thursday, the first day of
Chinese New Year, 55,000 people visited the IR .
Over at MBS, there were over 235,000 visitors on the same day, a spokesman said.
The two IRs also employ about 20,000 employees, and Singapore's
unemployment rate of2.1 per cent is the lowest in 21/2 years.
But the MPs also expressed reservations about the social impact of the
IRs as it may take time for the full impact to manifest.
Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC)noted that the strong economic showing
of the casinos is "both a boon and a bane".
Social gains & problems
She said: "It gives money for extra social services but gives us a
false sense of security as gaming revenue as a source of national
revenue is neither a platform for productivity gains nor value add to
our skills set.
"If it is impossible for us to reduce the existing number of IRs to
one or nil, we should resolve never to allow the setting up of more
casinos for both long-term social and economic reasons."
Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) agreed: "We also have to ensure
that we do not become a city that is overly reliant on the IRs or
(allow the IRs) to be at the core of our activities and be our only
and major industry."
Between April and November last year, the amount of betting taxes and
Goods and Services Tax on business receipts collected from the two IRs
came up to $420 million.
Over the same period, the total amount of casino entry levies
collected by the two IRs (on behalf of the Singapore Totalisator
Board) was $130 million.
In comparison, the estimated amount of motor vehicle taxes for
financial year 2010 is $1.5 billion.
However, MPs warned that we need to keep an eye on the social impact of the IRs.
Mr Baey, Mr Liang, Mr Lim and Madam Halimah Yacob (Jurong GRC) related
stories of people who had sought help from them after they themselves
or their loved ones lost money at the casino and fell on hard times.
But, Mr Baey added, "these incidents are much less common than those
where locals have benefited from the IRs".
But certain groups of people have caught the eyes of some MPs.
Madam Cynthia Phua (Aljunied GRC) is worried that elderly Singaporeans
who visit the casino may lose their savings, while Mrs Teo is
concerned about young executives who spend a few hours gambling at the
IRs after work each day.
All the MPs agreed that we cannot take our foot off the pedal in terms
of monitoring the social impact of the IRs on Singapore.
Said Mr Liang: "The IRs would only make economic sense to us if we can
keep the cases of problem gambling minimal."
This is the first of a two-part series of our casino report card. In
tomorrow's paper, read about the story of one compulsive gambler, and
find out what experts think about reviewing the casino levy.