Thursday 17 February at 10.00-11.30


The World in the Casino: Contract, Model and Exhibition in three Asian cities

Over the last twenty years, the center of the casino industry has relocated from Las Vegas to three cities in Asia-Pacific, namely Singapore, Macau and Manila (Philippines). Underpinning this transformation is a partnership between states and casino concessionaires whereby the sovereign right of taxation is leased to private entities that in turn allow states to tax populations outside their territories. In this presentation, I share my analysis of the "state-concessionaire" relationship across three sites - the contract, the model and the exhibition. I begin by contextualizing the relationship in colonial revenue farming and contemporary geopolitics. Then I discuss how a particular model of casino development, known as an Integrated Resort, mystifies this relationship and promotes the casino industry to new markets in Asia. Finally, I zoom into one casino lobby and show how the cultural politics of display is as much about philanthropy as patriotism.   

The seminar is co-hosted by Center for Global Asian Studies.

Kah-Wee Lee is an Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) where he teaches history and theory of urban planning, qualitative methods and architectural theory. He holds a Ph.D. in Architecture (Designated Emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies) from the University of California, Berkeley. 

Lee is an interdisciplinary scholar whose work explores the relationship between space and power, particularly through the lenses of modern professional expertise such as architecture, urban planning, law and public administration. He is the author of Las Vegas in Singapore (NUS Press, 2019), a history of the control of vice that casts a critical light on the pastoral image of Singapore’s contemporary political and urban landscape. Lee’s research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council (New York), the Center for Gaming Research (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation (North America Chapter), and the Ministry of Education (Singapore).

Lee is currently a 2021-22 Fellow of the Swedish Collegium of Advanced Studies, where he works on the manuscript for The World in the Casino.