A NEW GAME IN TOWN
It finally happened…the Sands Casino Singapore opened its doors with about 4 months delay or so on 27.April, 3.18pm. Why that particular time? This is due to Chinese beliefs that certain number combinations are more auspicious than others and will promise prosperity and luck. Lucky for whom? I guess mostly for the casino, which is already the second attempt of luring even more foreigners into Singapore to spend their money away on slot machines and roulette tables. Luckily enough for locals (Singaporean citizens and PRs), they are well protected from temptation and impulse gambling through a mandatory entrance fee of daily S$100 or yearly S$2000. This should keep all the (ahem) weak minds away. Understandably, this policy was and is quite in hot debate here as it gives a strong feeling of being patronized; I guess that this is one of the cornerstones that allowed to establish this sort of business on the large scale in Singapore in the first place. After all, it easily allows the officials to declare that they follow through with their ambition to keep harm away from the locals, while making sure that foreign money finds no obstacle to arrive and stay in abundance.
Will this work out? Can you introduce a morally fragile business on a large scale in prime areas to make big profit without abandoning your own moral compass? Obviously this could send the message that foreigners need not to be protected from the same human flaws and are free to wreck their own balance sheets. Fair enough then. Let’s get the games started !
TAXIS EVERYWHERE? NO MORE
One detail around the Sands opening is way more important to locals. The fact that Taxis now start to impose an additional S$3 surcharge for Marina Bay Sands from May 13th onwards is creating another wave of debate. Taxi prices and their continuous rise during the last years have always been a fun, good source of small talk in Singapore…it is just a wonderful topic everyone can complain about together and therefore feel in unison. I noticed a substantial rise of fees myself since I first arrived in 2005. More importantly, the pricing has evolved into quite a complicated monster that only real number-crunchers can fully appreciate. The plethora of extra charges depending on day, time, company, car type and starting place is astounding…all in the name of flexibility but in the end it’s just another way to raise prices.
Personally, I find the prices still in the ok zone and can keep up with them. What is more important is that the new attractions in the south (especially the Integrated Resorts on Sentosa and the Sands Casino) seem to lure away many taxi-uncles with the promise of a 3$ extra earning. I do experience that it is getting more difficult to find cabs to flag down these days and am just guessing here regarding the cause. The additional surcharge for the Sands Casino is likely to drain the Marina Bay area of cabs very soon. After all, this is just rational for the cab drivers. Why pick some passenger up who flagged by the street if you can get more just around the next corner?
(this is interesting…so was the original reference to the shape of DNA too complicated and awkward? Did no one get it? Maybe some people just thought there should have been two bridges. anyway, the ‘new’ name is more catchy. surely, there will be a bar/club with that name coming up)
CAN YOU WIN IN A CASINO?
Obviously, this is very unlikely. Even if you win occasionally, human flaws and Casino business design will ensure a handsome profit for the business. Why do people still go and try? Why do they spend their hard-earned money on 4D or gambling? Because they think they expose themselves to luck, to the one chance in their lifes to win big. The bitter truth is however, that casinos and lotteries have nothing to do with uncertainty. They are well-established businesses, where games and probabilities are designed to ensure the exact target profit margin of the entrepreneur. This is well-put in the book ‘The Black Swan’ by Nassim Taleb, who says “The casino is the only human venture I know where the probabilities are known, Gaussian (i.e., bell-curve), and almost computable.” How true and how sad for some people who may even lose their livelihoods or just set aside a good regular amount of money for gambling, believing that the big win is just around the corner when the odds are actually designed against you. Better expose yourself to crazy real-life probabilities, to those fantastic ‘unknown unknowns’. There is definitely more chance to win by putting your money into a new business in Singapore or even gambling with stocks (I don’t advocate it). At least here, one is exposed to what Taleb calls a ‘positive Black Swan’, an unlikely, high-impact event that may really change your life. Not so with a Casino, which will just empty your wallets through entrance fees, greedy black jack tables and heavy taxi surcharges to take your no-win home.
(Taxis turn bigger these days. The old days of pure Toyota Crown dominance should be over very soon. New car types show up everywhere…some of which always charge extra just for the car type, even if flagged down. With a higher base of fare of $5 and more transport fare, those cabs are often ignored by locals at taxi stands)