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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Genting making its presence felt in US landscape

Genting entered Massachusetts without scrutiny as the GENEROUS SUGAR DADDY for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

No one even asked questions about this:

Genting Connected to Islamic Extremists?

Genting making its presence felt in US landscape

Genting making its presence felt in US landscape
The Straits Times

In the large ongoing shake-up of the United States gaming landscape, one household name in Singapore has been quickly making a name for itself: Genting.

Though the Malaysian company that runs Resorts World Sentosa still has a relatively small footprint in the US compared with the likes of Las Vegas Sands or Caesars, it is making its presence felt, especially in newer US markets.

Florida-based Genting Americas currently runs two gambling operations - a racecourse-video lottery casino combination near John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, and a casino resort in Bimini, the Bahamas, off Miami.

While its ambitious plans have been hit-and-miss so far, Genting's aggressiveness has certainly got noticed. It has been spending aggressively and has also assembled a well-connected group of lobbyists.

For instance, Genting reportedly told the New York casino board that it would pay US$450 million (S$596 million) for a state gambling licence - a shocking sum, given that state officials announced the price would be between US$20 million and US$70 million.

Mr James Featherstonhaugh, president of pro-casino lobby group New York Gaming Association, said in a radio interview that the fee was Genting's version of "shock and awe".

Genting has also donated US$340,000 to a New York state school district where it wanted to build a casino, and promised at least US$50 million to the town if it wins a casino licence.

A report by the New York Public Interest Research Group published in July found that "Genting Group spent more than any other bidder on both lobbying and campaign contributions" over the two years from 2012 to last year.

The report estimated that it spent US$2.4 million on lobbying efforts alone, four times more than any other operator. Genting Americas declined to comment when approached by The Straits Times.

Of the 16 proposals that the New York Gaming Commission considered, two were from Genting and a third was from Empire Resorts, a US gaming company with deep ties to Genting.

The most ambitious of the three, and also the one that most upset residents, was a US$1.5 billion, 97ha integrated resort at the site of a ski centre at Sterling Forest, just an hour's drive from New York City. The proposal drew fierce objections from residents worried about the impact of a resort on the surrounding forest as well as the social problems a casino might bring.

The New York casino board eventually rejected Genting's proposals about two weeks ago and approved the one by Empire Resorts.

Genting had faced similar problems in Florida where it hoped to build what it touted as the world's largest casino. In 2011, despite little certainty that the state would approve a casino in Miami, Genting paid US$400 million for land and donated more than US$500,000 to political parties.

With Florida seemingly unlikely to legalise gambling in Miami any time soon, Genting has had to downsize its plans, saying it will now look to build condominiums and a luxury hotel there.

Where it has had success is in Las Vegas, and it is going all out there. In May, the Las Vegas Gaming Commission gave Genting the preliminary green light to begin construction of a US$4 billion mega-resort on the Las Vegas strip. Even Nevada Gaming Commission chairman Peter Bernhard described it as a "game-changer" for Las Vegas.

And it now remains to be seen where Genting goes from here.


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