SINGAPORE - Singapore opens its first casino on Sunday, coinciding with the start of the Chinese New Year, as the city-state makes the latest roll of the dice to turn itself into a playground for the rich.

Genting Singapore said its Resorts World Sentosa casino in Singapore would have its soft opening -- to a restricted number of guests -- on Feb 14 and welcome the first member of the public at what the casino says is the auspicious time of 12.18 p.m. the same day.

The casino is part of a S$6.59 billion (2.98 billion pound) resort located on Sentosa Island -- off Singapore's southern coast and a former Malay graveyard turned British military base during the colonial period.

Singapore is betting on casinos to increase tourism revenue and boost business for its wealth management industry.

Resorts World Sentosa hopes to lure gamblers away from lavish facilities in Macau, Malaysia and Australia and has already opened four of the resort's six hotels as well as a number of restaurants and shops.

Known for shopping malls, efficiency, cleanliness and a nanny state social environment, Singapore is already home to the highest density of millionaires in the world.

Resorts World Sentosa, and a rival casino likely to open nearby later this year, will add to the glamour generated in the Southeast Asia state by an annual Formula One night street race.


A Chinese astrologer said a midday opening time, which falls on the Year of Metal Tiger under Chinese zodiac signs, is supposed to be the most propitious for business.
Midday is supposed to be the hottest time of the day, Thai Feng Shui master Panuwat Punvichartkul told Reuters.

And this year is the year of a high-spirited Tiger. This will give a double boost to the casino with a very brisk and bright business future.

The casino secured its licence on February 6, but a purported opening on Thursday or Friday this week never materialised.

Month ends, particularly year-ends, aren't considered to be particularly auspicious for the truly traditional Chinese, as they mark an end, said blogger auntieLucia.

Genting, a unit of Malaysian casino operator Genting Bhd, will also allow the public to visit its Universal Studios theme park on Feb 14, although the rides will only be operational in early March.

Resorts World secures bragging rights as Singapore's first casino ahead of Las Vegas Sands, whose facility at Marina Bay Sands is under construction and unlikely to open before June.

Deutsche Bank on Monday forecast Genting would make S$1.7 billion ($1.20 billion) in gross gaming revenue in its first year. But it also suggested Genting shares may later fall, as happened with Hong Kong-listed firms after the opening of their Macau casinos.

(Additional reporting by Harry Suhartono, editing by Kevin Lim and Ron Popeski)