Steve Wynn, Las Vegas casino mogul, recently spoke up against what he feels are the Singapore government's "control and direction" in the bidding process for the two Integrated Resorts planned for the city state. Yeoh Siew Hoon paints a few scenarios which could result from his remarks.
I had a good chuckle last Saturday morning. Not because Saturday's my favourite day of the week but I saw an article headlined: Casino mogul: Too much control.
At first, I thought it was Donald Trump talking about his digestive disorder but it turned out that it was Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas tycoon, talking about the bidding process for Singapore's integrated resorts (IR for short in this town that shortens everything because it is more efficient that way).
Says Wynn (and you can tell he is really holding back here), "There's an awful lot of control and direction in the documents we've received which, frankly speaking, is unsophisticated," he told the Business Times.
"It's control and direction given by people who've never done this before. I don't think it's appropriate to tell someone: Give us an attraction that's irresistible, that will reach into India and China – but we'll tell you how to design it."
Wynn cites a specific requirement that bidders must submit line drawings by September 30. "By definition, anything done by Sept 30 will be a partially finished product. You can't tell from a drawing or rendering what space moves the human spirit. You have to be in it to understand."
And he adds, "Don't issue thunderbolts of wisdom from the top of Mount Olympus. You're talking about the people of the world and what makes them go. That's the ballpark we play in. Running the government is the ballpark they play in. Those are two different games. Both sides have to be open and flexible."
"Telling us ‘show us your work' and then asking us how to create something in Singapore as best we know and in a way that's not repugnant or antithetical to the sensibilities of the city is a perfectly valid instruction.
"And if someone does something that's offensive, you reject it, plain and simple. But you don't tell an expert how to do an expert's job. You ask."
He concludes his argument by saying, "There's a very definite agenda on the table here: We want to change Singapore's tourism profile from 5% of GDP to closer to 15. Ultimately, this is not between me and the government, it's between me and the public."
I chuckled because I could only imagine the reaction to his comments in certain circles. Now I am no gambler but I am taking bets on these possible outcomes.
1. Competitor bidders secretly applaud his frankness but hope this will earn him a few black marks and dismiss him as a serious competitor.
2. Everyone who's had a taste of the rules, direction and control Wynn's talking about raises a glass of champagne to salute Wynn for daring to speak what they have thought but were afraid to say because they don't have as much money and clout as he does … they do say, money talks.
3. Wynn earns brownie points with other governments who now all want to build casinos because it's good for the economy and the greater good of the people. So what if some are losers and end up broke and bankrupt and have to depend on the kindness of strangers, and but overall, the economy will be the winner – now, how do you figure that one out?
4. Perversely, this could work in Wynn's favour because if the government were now to reject his bid, it could always be construed that it's because he dared to criticize them and that wouldn't be seen as favourable to Singapore's attempt to create a more open and tolerant society that encourages free expression …
5. Officials, on reading Wynn's comments, agree to abandon the rules and say, "Go forth and create."
6. There will be a mini-eruption on Mount Olympus.
Care to wager some odds here?The SHY Report
A regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry by one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, Yeoh Siew Hoon.
Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company's mission is "Content, Communication, Connection". She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published "Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries". Her motto is ‘free to do, and be'. Contacts: Tel: 65-63424934, Mobile: 65-96801460