Genting sees Bahamas as gateway to Miami

GENTING Malaysia Bhd is still missing a casino licence in Miami, Florida, in the US. But its chairman, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, sees an opportunity from the soon-to-be-opened Resorts World Bimini Bahamas, its boutique luxury resort and casino located about two hours away by ferry from South Florida.

"Part of our strategy is to position Bimini to the South Florida market like Macau to mainland China. In the absence of a casino licence [in Miami], we believe this is a good opportunity to build up a good understanding of the market," Lim told Genting Malaysia shareholders at its AGM a week prior to June 17, adding that the group remains steadfast to its quest to expand its presence in the US.

The Bimini resort is on track to be opened by year-end, he said, adding that he expects good returns from its investment in the Bimini SuperFast ferry service between Florida and the new resort.

Whether or not Bimini will be as successful as it hopes, Lim said Genting Malaysia is going ahead with its real estate investments in Miami, even as efforts to gain a casino licence continue. "The real estate market is very hot there, especially South Florida."

According to US media reports, Genting Malaysia is proceeding with the redevelopment of the Miami Herald building, facing Biscayne Bay, into hotels and luxury condominiums, as well as retail and commercial space, even as Florida lawmakers debate the merits of allowing casinos in the state.

Apart from the Bahamas casino, the Genting Group is also well-placed to tap the Miami market through Genting Hong Kong Ltd's 43.4%-owned Nasdaq-listed Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCL), which operates an 11-ship fleet that calls on destinations in North and South America, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, the Mediterranean and Bermuda.

By January 2014, NCL will receive delivery of a 4,000 passenger ship that's slated to be the largest ship to homeport year-round in Miami. The ship is similar to Norwegian Breakaway — a 4,000 passenger ship that arrived at its homeport in New York City on May 7, offering dining and entertainment, including three Broadway shows.

Genting Bhd owns 49.29% of Genting Malaysia, 52.01% of Genting Singapore plc and 18.67% of Genting Hong Kong, which the Lim family controls.

Over in New York, Lim said efforts are also ongoing to secure a full-fledged casino licence — be it for Resorts World New York in New York City, which is only allowed to provide electronic table games and slot machines, or to open another resort in upstate New York.

"Our US expansion strategy will continue to evolve and we are committed to evaluate and pursue the best opportunities available in that market," Lim said in Genting Malaysia's 2012 annual report.

Meanwhile, Resorts World Las Vegas — which is housed under a wholly-owned subsidiary of Genting Bhd — is also progressing well. Phase one will consist of a 3,500-room hotel and a multi-storey building with a casino, upscale restaurants and high-end shopping.

Resorts World New York, Miami, Bimini Bahamas and Genting UK are housed under Genting Malaysia.

This story first appeared in The Edge weekly edition of June 17-23, 2013.

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