Examine casino’s impact on S’pore brand : DPM Tan

DEPUTY Prime Minister Tony Tan has made clear his stand on the casino debate.

‘I look at this issue from a hard-headed pragmatic view,’ he said yesterday.

‘Is it an economic plus or an economic minus? Do not assume that a casino is an economic plus. If it is, every state in the US would have a casino.’

Dr Tan added that one should not assume Singapore would reap economic benefits from having a casino, pointing out that it could well ‘detract’ from the value of Singapore’s brand name.

He noted that the Republic had built up a reputation of being safe and reliable.

‘When people talk about Singapore, what is their image or perception of Singapore? Perhaps a little bit straight-laced but a safe country, well-ordered and well-run. It is a very good place for parents to bring up their children with a high standard of morality.

‘We have spent 40 years building up this brand and there is a tremendous amount of economic value there.’

Dr Tan acknowledged that a casino might bring some benefits but he pondered this question: ‘So, if you have a casino, will it destroy the Singapore brand? People then may not look at Singapore in the same way possibly.’

His comments come after Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said on Sunday that the Cabinet was divided on the casino issue.

‘There are moralists who strongly oppose it,’ he told university students.

‘And there are pragmatists who say, This is not the right way, we are risking too much’ – and there are those who say, Look, the world is changing, can we (afford to) stay as we were?’ ‘

Although his own stand has been that ‘gambling is not the way for Singapore to go’, the country is now faced with a ‘different situation’, he acknowledged.

Singaporeans now embark on cruises, log on to gambling websites and travel to places like Batam, Macau and Sydney to bet.

Dr Tan said that having a casino in Singapore was a complex issue.

‘We can look at it from many dimensions. A lot of debate has been going on for some time. Some see it from the point of view of values versus money. Do we sacrifice our moral values for economic gain?

‘Another way to look at is whether Singaporeans are mature enough, responsible or grown up to have a casino?’

He made specific reference to the United States about the ‘desirability or undesirability’ of having a casino.

He said that while the US had 50 states, only two had casinos – Las Vegas and Atlantic City. There was none elsewhere, even in the most liberal of states, like California.

Dr Tan noted: ‘If a state like California, which is extremely liberal and as conscious of the need to make money, but do not allow casinos to be established, that deserves a bit of thought.’

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