Lee's People's Action Party, which has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965, is publicly split over the issue. Even founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew - the premier's father - has expressed his reservations.
No reliable polls exist on the public's support for a casino and the government has ruled out holding a referendum on the issue, but online and telephone polls by state-run broadcaster Channel NewsAsia show a slight tilt in the population against it.
"If the tourists fail to materialise, that is when things will turn ugly," said Chua of the National University. "I think the political cost will be huge. It is a huge gamble because there is quite serious opposition on the ground to it."
One group - "Families Against the Casino Threat in Singapore" - has gathered 29,413 signatures in an online petition to stop the casino on the Web site www.facts.com.sg .
The government will likely restrict access for locals through membership fees of S$100 ($62) per day or S$2,000 a year to reduce risks of gambling addicts, crime and other social ills.