Harrah’s unveils high-tech core of Singapore casino bid

Las Vegas (AP) – Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., the world’s largest casino operator, unveiled its vision Monday for a high-tech theme park called „iPort“ that will anchor its bid to build a casino megaresort in Singapore.

The project’s executive producer is Hollywood director James Cameron, who will contribute the rights and oversight to develop interactive rides based on his hit movies.

„We’ve been discussing already an ‚Aliens‘ attraction and there’s a discussion of a ‚Titanic‘ attraction, what I call the ‚Titanic‘ restaurant-slash-near-death experience,“ Cameron told reporters at an unveiling in Las Vegas.

The 16-story, 1 million-square-foot theme park will have five levels, a gondola-type people mover and giant television screens called „video cyclones“ that will swirl through the middle.

Harrah’s is one of several casino operators, including No. 2 MGM Mirage Inc., vying to build a casino in Singapore, which last year reversed its decades-old ban on casino gambling.

Singapore said it would award licenses to operate a casino at Marina Bay, the site of its new downtown, and another on the resort island of Sentosa.

Harrah’s chief executive Gary Loveman said Singapore offers the best chance for the company to break into Asia. Harrah’s currently operates nearly 40 casinos in the U.S., Canada and Uruguay.

The company’s competitors, such as Wynn Resorts Ltd., have plans to open casinos in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.

Wynn Macau is set to open in September. Rival Las Vegas Sands Corp. opened the Sands Macau casino in May 2004 and is building its flagship property, The Venetian Macau. MGM Mirage is attempting to break into both markets.

„I wouldn’t say we’re giving up on it (Macau),“ Loveman said. „We believe that this is the best opportunity for our company in Asia. We think that Singapore is a spectacular market, we think the position on the Marina Bay is unmatched in any other market in the world that we can participate in and it’s our highest priority.“

Harrah’s will submit its vision on paper to Singapore tourism authorities March 29 and explain it in person April 6. The company did not reveal its plans for the casino and hotel that will accompany the theme park.

The winning bidder is expected to pay the Singapore government $ 700 million for land and then develop the resort according to its presentation, Loveman said.

A decision is expected by May and if Harrah’s wins, it plans to open the resort to the public in 2011.