How Much Is One Hundred Singapore Dollars Worth?
by Desmond Lam

How Much Is One Hundred Singapore Dollars Worth? By Desmond Lam

The year 2010 will be an exciting year for many Singaporeans. With the impending opening of The Resort World at Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands in the first quarter of 2010, Singapore is one of the ‘must-watch’ casino gaming centers in the world. The opening of both properties, each costing multi-billion dollars to build, is bound to create a mega-buzz within the global gaming industry and local community. Gaming regulators in Macau and Taiwan will be following closely the development of these integrated resorts and evaluate their successes (and/or failures).

A lot is at stake for Singapore and its government. These integrated resorts form the backbone of other recent developments (e.g. Formula 1 race) designed to boost tourist numbers and help stimulate demand in other areas of the economy. The announcement of the gaming legalization was followed by a considerable amount of debate among numerous social groups in Singapore. Many were afraid of the negative social impact that casino gaming would have on Singaporeans. To protect its residents from ‘gambling harms’, the Singapore government will implement a series of measures.

One proposed measure is to charge S$100 (~ USD 70) per casino entry fee or an annual fee of S$2,000 (~ USD 1,400) on each Singaporean visiting either casino. This proposal has stirred much controversial discussion among casino executives worldwide. Some doubt the logic of this proposed measure, while others think it is an extreme measure that will not work. An executive whom I met thinks it may backfire as a harm protection measure and encourage more gambling. His reasoning is that each ordinary Singaporean who enters one of the casinos will now crave to gamble to win back his/her ‘S$100’ loss and may end up gambling more than intended. He may have a point. There is much talk about compulsive gambling behavior initiated by the psychology of chasing wins and/or recouping losses in problem gambling literature.

I do not want to argue for or against the logic of this measure. I was in Singapore in November to visit family and talked to a few people. Most Singaporeans that I spoke to said S$100 per entry is expensive but they are willing to pay it once just to see the casinos. But, of course, they could be lying. After all, some Singaporeans spent much more each week buying lottery tickets (i.e. Toto and 4D) at Singapore Pools outlets. When I mentioned casinos in Singapore, people whom I talked to speak first of Marina Bay Sands. When I asked about Resort World at Sentosa, they spoke of Universal Studios.

So, how much is S$100? What can one get with S$100 in Singapore? For S$100, a Singapore casino player has numerous gaming, leisure, and entertainment alternatives. For S$100, a Singaporean can:

Casino Gaming Alternatives:

- Go to Genting Malaysia. Casino de GENTING at Genting Highland is just 4-5 hours drive from Singapore. Opened in 1971, it is the only casino gaming venue in Malaysia. Many Singapore tour operators offer promotional coach packages to Genting. For less than S$80 per person, some of these operators offer two-way luxury coach transfer (it takes up to 8 hours one way) to Genting and two-night accommodation (twin-shared deluxe room) at its First World hotel, one of the largest hotels in the world by rooms (greater than 6,000 rooms). Not to forget that S$100 is now worth more than 240 Malaysia ringgit. Each Singapore dollar more than doubled when you drive into Malaysia.

- Go on a gambling cruise. There are numerous cruise ships in Singapore that offer gaming alternatives to the integrated resorts. MV Leisure World, for example, offers a net price of S$62 per person for one night accommodation onboard its ship based on twin-shared standard cabin. All meals included. You can also stay one night onboard MV Long Jie, another luxury gambling cruise ship in Singapore, for less than S$100.

- Play slots in National Trades Union Congress (or NTUC) Clubs. NTUC Club was established in 1986 to offer entertainment to its union members (now more than 500,000) and the Singapore public. NTUC Clubs in Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris, for example, offers numerous slot machines for the recreation and entertainment of its members.

- Play mahjong with your family members and friends at home or in a Chinese clan association. There are a number of clan associations in Singapore belonging to Chinese dialect groups like Hakka, Hokkien, and Teochew. The standard bet is S$1/2 per point (which doubles as the point increases) for each round. This can potentially translate to a lost of S$32 per game if one opponent wins by five points. For S$100, one can afford to lose up to three rounds of a mahjong game.

- Play pokers or other card games with your friends privately at a friend’s home. Harmless games using poker cards are often played during Chinese New Year celebration, festive events, and happy occasion in many Chinese Singaporean families.

Other Gaming Alternatives:

- Buy lottery at a Singapore Pools outlet or by phone. Singapore Pools offers four types of lottery namely, Toto, 4D, Singapore Sweep, and Scatchit. The most popular lottery games in Singapore are Toto and 4D. There are two draws per week for Toto (pick 6 numbers) and three draws per week for 4D (pick 4 numbers). A Sys Roll Toto ticket with a S$1 bet amount costs S$20, while a 4D Roll with the same bet amount costs S$10. For S$100, a Singaporean can buy five Sys Roll Toto or 10 4D Roll ticket. The odd of winning six Toto numbers is 1 in more than 8 million, while the odd of winning the first prize in 4D is 1 in 10,000.

- Bet on football games or motorcar races at a Singapore Pools outlet or by phone. Established in 1968, Singapore Pools offers football betting on domestic and international matches as well as motor race betting. For less than S$100, a Singaporean can bet on a number of football matches and motor races.

- Bet on horse racing. Founded in 1842, the Singapore Turf club offers totalisator services in Singapore. A simple race bet, which one picks the best horse to finish first, costs just S$5.

Food & Entertainment Alternatives with S$100:

- Watch a movie in the cinema. If you watch Avatar (3D) at Golden Village Marina, it will cost you S$11 if you booked on the Internet. For S$100, you can watch nine movies (popcorn not included).

- Ride the world’s largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer, three times.

- Enjoy more than 30 plates of Hainanese chicken rice at a local hawker centre.

- Eat more than 150 sticks of satay (with ketupat and drinks) at East Coast Lagoon Food Village.

- Drink 38 cans (each 323 ml) of Carlsberg beer bought from NTUC Fairprice supermarket.

- Eat 43 loaves (600 g) of Gardenia jumbo white bread bought from NTUC Fairprice supermarket.

- Buy five packs of Huggies XL Diapers from NTUC Fairprice supermarket.

Compare these alternatives to the following:

- Parking without valid parking coupon - Fine S$30.

- Illegal parking in common property (HDB flat) - Fine S$100.

- Jaywalking - Fine up to S$500 for first offence.

- Littering - Fine up to S$1,000 for first offence.

- Illegal gambling - Jail up to 6 months or fine up to S$5,000.

Date Posted: 31-Dec-2009

Desmond Lam is a visiting senior research fellow at the School of Marketing, University of South Australia. Visit www.DesmondL.com

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