Bidders push out the boat for Singapore casino licence

The race for Singapore’s second casino licence has intensified as bidders unveiled further details of their bids, including plans to build the world’s largest oceanarium, robotic animals and plants and high-end spa resorts.

Bahamas-based casino operator Kerzner International and Southeast Asia’s largest property group CapitaLand introduced a futuristic design for the „integrated resort“ project on Sentosa island, depicting what the legendary city of Atlantis would be in the year 3000.

If their bid succeeds, the resort will feature 1,800 hotel rooms, the world’s biggest man-made coral reef, habitats featuring both live fish and robotic sea creatures, and a garden that with mechanical animals and plants.

„This will be one of the great wonders of the world,“ said Sol Kerzner, chairman of Kerzner International Holdings Ltd.

„It represents what Atlantis will be like — perhaps in the year 3000,“ he told a media briefing after he and his team presented details of their bid to a government panel.

Kerzner and CapitaLand have said their bid will proceed despite the death in a helicopter crash last week of the firm’s chief executive officer, Butch Kerzner, the elder Kerzner’s 42-year-old son.

The young Kerzner died along with two pilots and another passenger when their helicopter crashed in the Dominican Republic while surveying potential development sites for the company.

Sol Kerzner said his group will invest 5.28 billion Singapore dollars (3.34 billion USD) if it wins the bid for the resort, which will include a casino.

The resort will be named Atlantis Sentosa to leverage on Kerzner’s famous Atlantis gaming resort on Paradise island in the Bahamas — an ocean-themed facility with 2,317 rooms.

Malaysia’s Genting International, regarded by several analysts as the frontrunner for the Sentosa development, said it will build the world’s largest oceanarium if it wins the gaming licence.

Its proposed 5.2 billion-dollar project will also feature a water park, a maritime museum and six hotels offering over 1,800 rooms.

Genting and Star Cruises, both part of the Malaysian casino operator Genting Group, have tied-up with Universal Parks and Resorts of the United States to bid for the Sentosa development.

„We believe we have submitted a great proposal for the Sentosa integrated resort,“ said Lim Kok Thay, chairman and chief executive of the Genting Group.

„Our proposed development has attractions that are world class destinations in their own right. It will be a resort of resorts.“

The eight-hectare (19.76 acres) oceanarium would house as many as 700,000 aquatic animals and a 6.6 million-gallon (25.08-litre) lagoon to allow visitors to snorkel and dive with whale sharks, Genting said.

The third bidder, privately-held Las Vegas firm Eighth Wonder, announced Monday it has roped Singapore luxury resort operator Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts into its consortium for the Sentosa project.

Banyan Tree would manage and operate a high-end resort that would feature exclusive private villas set in a lush tropical garden setting, they said in joint statement.

Banyan Tree’s sister brand, Angsana Spa, will also be incorporated into hotels within the „integrated resort“ complex, the statement said.

Eighth Wonder is undertaking its bid with Australia’s Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd and Hong Kong’s Melco International Development Ltd, and Isle of Capri Casinos Inc.

Bidding for the licence closed last week and a winner for the Sentosa project is to be announced by the end of the year.

Singapore in May awarded Las Vegas Sands a licence to build a 3.2-billion US dollar casino project in the waterfront Marina Bay area which will be ready in 2009.