Mobsters, hookers unwelcome in Singapore casinos

SINGAPORE, Dec 20, 2006 (AFP) – Loan sharks, prostitutes, money launderers and mobsters — they’re traditionally as much a part of casinos as the punters themselves. But squeaky-clean Singapore is taking steps to make sure criminals have no place in the city-state’s two new gaming centres, which are due to open by 2010.

Analysts have confidence the strict regulatory system will work, and that Singapore will remain one of Asia’s most crime-free countries even after the multi-billion dollar projects change the face of the city.

“There should be very little concern,” said Steven Tan, a Malaysia-based analyst with CIMB-GK Securities.

Singapore is a majority ethnic Chinese country where legalised betting on football, horse racing and lotteries is widespread.

But when the government first raised the prospect of casino gambling, a public debate erupted in the city-state where voices of dissent against the government are rarely heard.

The opposition Workers’ Party feared a casino could threaten Singapore’s “family values” reputation and put it at risk of becoming a centre for money-laundering.

The government went ahead anyway, hoping the casino “reso