Singapore, A Balancing Act

Having been denied entry to the gaming floor, the security was kind enough to direct us to the upper level. The top tier restaurants featured in Marina Bay Sands include Wolfgang Puck's CUT, Mario Bateli's Osteria Mozza, and Guy Savoy. Our circuitous route up led up past Armani, Louis Vuitton, and BVLGARI as well as a world class centre for the performing arts

2 years ago, when I lived here on a University exchange, the Broadway rendition of the Lion King was playing in this theatre. Nearby, at the Art Science Museum (there is some argument as to whether it is shaped like a lotus flower or the Buddha's Palm), Vincent Dali was being featured, as well as the HMS Titanic's travelling exhibit. Across the street sits the Marina Bay Sands Resort: literally, a cruise ship (the resort) that has been placed on top of three 194 metre columns (the hotel).

Approaching the balcony on the casino's third floor is a truly vertigo-inducing experience. We were able to snap the shots (above) before being informed that pictures were not allowed. The pictures don't do it justice; the sense of scale is all wrong. Staring down, past the second floor gaming area in the world's largest atrium casino, and into the gaming pit, one tends to lose perspective. There is a spot, about 30 degrees from straight down, where one can see nothing in their field of view except gaming tables. People look diminutive, and the casino maintains the frenetic pace, and the organized-but-chaotic atmosphere of an ant hill.

The construction of Marina Bay Sands was a hotly contested issue. It's only Singapore's second casino. The Singaporean government had to balance the protection of its citizens from the perils of gambling, with the huge revenue that an international casino and resort would provide. In order to effectively strike this balance, Singaporean citizens are discouraged from gambling through a $100 per person cover charge. Foreigners, however, or at least those over the age of 21 and who have valid passports, may join the throng for free.

Singapore has only recently been confronted with the trappings of success, and the balancing act its government has played in deciding to construct Marina Bay Sands, then create regulation around its citizen's entry, perfectly exemplifies one of the major challenges faced by the Singaporean government: how do you take a citizenry into the middle class with alacrity, open up to international trade, and still maintain the welfare of a population whose culture isn't necessarily ready to resist the glitz and glamour of North American opulence that comes part and parcel with international trade?

by Brandon Hastings, BBA, JD, Junior Team Canada Ambassador