Asians' love of gambling is so strong that the equivalent of five Las Vegases in the region will not be enough to satisfy demand, US gaming tycoon Sheldon Adelson said Wednesday.
The chairman of Las Vegas Sands said at a press conference at the company's massive Singapore casino complex, Marina Bay Sands, that the "propensity" to gamble was part of Asian culture.
"I believe we can put the equivalent of five plus Las Vegases, with 140,000 hotel rooms each in five different locations in Asia, and it still won't saturate the demand," he said.
Marina Bay Sands will primarily target customers from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, with an eye on other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam, Adelson added.
"In my opinion there's more than enough business for us to succeed within a two, two and a half hours' flight from here. I think there's more than enough business and that's not counting large volumes of people from China or Hong Kong."
Adelson was speaking at an event marking the opening of all the Marina Bay Sands 2,560 hotel rooms, plus shops, restaurants and exhibition facilities. The casino and part of the hotel started operating in April.
Marina Bay Sands chief executive officer Thomas Arasi said the casino had already attracted close to 500,000 people in June alone.
"We're very happy with where we're at," Arasi said.
Adelson said Sands expects to attract between 125,000 and 150,000 people a day when it is fully open, adding that the project would help dispel Singapore's lingering image as a staid place.
"It's going to change Singapore by providing entertainment amenities that were not here before," he said.
"This will be for the Asian people a very major attraction, and will change the conservative perception of what Singapore has in the night time."
On competition with Macau, where Las Vegas Sands also has a huge presence, Adelson said it was still unclear if Singapore had stolen some business from the Chinese territory but stressed that they were aiming at different markets.
"Macau is serving Hong Kong, Taiwan and southeast China... They are two different markets and they appeal to two different constituencies."
Despite concerns over its social impact, Singapore gave the green light for casino gambling in 2005 in a bid to increase tourist arrivals and cash in on a growing trend in Asia.
The Singapore Tourism Board says visitor arrivals this year could range from 11.5 million to 12.5 million, compared to 9.7 million in 2009, thanks in part to the casinos and the economic recovery in the region.
The target is 17 million arrivals by 2015 -- more than three times the current population of Singapore.