Singapore has opened its first casino, part of a campaign by the city-state to transform itself into a tourist hub and reduce its reliance on manufacturing.
The Resorts World Sentosa casino welcomed its first visitors Sunday, an auspicious date that coincides with the first day of the Lunar New Year.
The casino is part of a $4.7 billion complex built by Malaysia’s Genting Group on Sentosa island, an islet linked to Singapore’s main island by a bridge. The complex also houses a new Universal Studios movie theme park and high-end hotels.
Singapore is trying to broaden its appeal to tourists and become more of a services-based economy, while shifting away from manufacturing work that its Asian neighbors can do more cheaply.
Some Singaporeans have expressed concern that promoting gambling could undermine the city-state’s values and encourage money-laundering.
The government has tried to address those concerns by imposing a $70 fee on Singaporeans entering the casino to try to dissuade them from becoming addicted. The fee does not apply to foreign visitors. Singapore also has banned anyone declared bankrupt from using the casino.
The city-state plans to open a second casino, built by U.S. company Las Vegas Sands, in the coming months. The government estimates the casinos will boost Singapore’s gross domestic product growth by up to one percentage point in the coming years.