Genting to Spend $4 Billion Finishing Off Las Vegas ResortChong Pooi Koon
Genting Bhd., Southeast Asia’s largest casino operator, will spend as much as $4 billion on completing an unfinished Las Vegas resort it bought from Boyd Gaming Corp. earlier this year, its chairman said yesterday.
Genting, controlled by Malaysian billionaire Lim Kok Thay, paid $350 million for the 87-acre (35-hectare) site, once home to the Stardust. The Echelon project will be re-branded Resorts World Las Vegas, with the opening of phase one planned for 2015, the company said at the time.
“We’re at the moment at the planning stage,” Lim told reporters at Malaysia’s Genting Highlands resort, where he operates the country’s only casino. “The group is undergoing regulatory investigations by the Nevada Gaming Board, which is one of the strictest you can get. I’m quite confident we’ll obtain this license and only with that we’ll commence the construction.”
Genting has been pushing into U.S. gambling amid restrictions on opening more casinos on home soil, where Muslims are forbidden from gambling under Malaysia’s Shariah laws. It runs the Resorts World Casino at New York City’s Aqueduct race track, the top-grossing U.S. slot machine parlor, and is pursuing one in Miami. Lim also opened a 750-acre beach front resort on the Bimini islands in the Bahamas in July as part of the group’s expansion in the Americas.
The uncompleted Las Vegas resort became a symbol of U.S. real estate excesses and city’s woes after Boyd stopped construction in August 2008.
Genting fell 1.2 percent to 10.12 ringgit as of 9:18 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur, snapping a two-day gain. The benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index lost 0.4 percent.
Lim’s Genting group of companies also controls casino operators in the U.K., and operates Resorts World Sentosa, one of Singapore’s two gambling resorts. Another resort is planned for Birmingham in the U.K. in mid-2015.
Back home, Genting Malaysia Bhd. is upgrading its hilltop gaming resort, where it operates the Southeast Asian nation’s only casino. The group may spend about 5 billion ringgit ($1.5 billion) on the revamp, 67 percent more than originally flagged, after adding more features, Lim said yesterday.
The company in partnership with Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. will increase spending for its revamped theme park, which is part of the resort, to 1 billion ringgit to allow for better rides and attractions, Genting said in a statement. That’s more than double 400 million ringgit originally flagged in July. The group will also add hotel rooms, premium retail outlets, a new cable car station and show arena for 10,000 people, it said.
“Like most of the players in the gaming sector, a lot of the attention has been paid to the Chinese market,” Lim said. “We expect Macau to enjoy the bulk of that business and to flow over to Singapore, and hopefully also into Resorts World Genting when our expansion plan is completed.”
The revamped 25-acre Malaysian theme park will be called Twentieth Century Fox World. It will be the New York-based movie-maker’s first, featuring 25 rides and attractions of a cinematic nature, the companies said in a joint statement. They will feature brands from films including Ice Age, Rio, Alien and Night at the Museum, they said.
Harvard University-educated Lim is Malaysia’s third-richest man with a net worth of $7.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He said in an interview in July he was keen to invest in Japan and Macau casinos if licenses become available.
Japanese lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party submitted a bill to legalize casinos to parliament this month, bringing the nation closer to opening up what is estimated to be the world’s second-largest gaming market.
Any Japan resort would be developed via Genting Singapore Plc, Lim said.
“If we are fortunate to win that license, that will obviously give the upside that Genting Singapore is looking at,” he said. “The growth in Singapore’s domestic business has plateaued, or is enjoying very, very small growth. So where is growth in Singapore coming from, it’s from the international business.”