Genting Group, seeking Miami casino, flies leaders to Asia
By Scott Blake
Genting Group, the Malaysian corporate giant planning to bring a $3 billion-plus resort and casino to downtown Miami's waterfront, recently flew a group of local leaders to Southeast Asia in what one official described as a whirlwind tour of the company's resorts.
Genting set up the trip to give the group a better idea of how it operates and what it plans to build on the current site of the Miami Herald newspaper on Biscayne Bay, said Jack Lowell, chairman of the Beacon Council, Miami Dade County's public-private economic development organization.
Mr. Lowell was among those on the trip, which he described as an effort by Genting to enlist the group's support for its Miami proposal.
"They're trying to build community support," Mr. Lowell said. "They're trying to get a gaming license from the (Florida) Legislature."
According to Mr. Lowell, the Southeast Asia excursion took place about four weeks ago and lasted four days, including stops at two of the company's resorts, Resorts World Genting in Malaysia and Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore.
Mr. Lowell refused to name the other officials on the trip, nor did he provide additional details about what the group did.
He said he was impressed with Genting's operations, and described their casinos as "upscale" venues.
"They do a very high-quality job," he added.
Genting hopes to win approval for a gaming license from Florida lawmakers during the legislative session scheduled to start in January in Tallahassee. One issue that would need to be settled is how much the state would get from Genting's gaming revenues in Miami, Mr. Lowell said.
"It would be a very profitable business, generating a lot of public revenue," he said.
Meanwhile, Genting has hired Florida attorney Jonathan Kilman to lobby for the company's gaming license.
Mr. Kilman, a partner with Foley & Lardner, has lobbied in Tallahassee for Fortune 500 companies and served as legal counsel to former Gov. Charlie Crist's campaign, according to the law firm's web site.
Genting's preliminary plan calls for hotel, office and retail space, condominiums, a convention center, and a casino, said outside publicist Tadd Schwartz, a Genting spokesman in Miami. The project would total about 8 million square feet, but the casino would occupy 10% or less of that space, he said — which could mean up to 800,000 square feet for the casino.
If Genting's bid for a gaming license fails, the company still plans to move ahead with the project, minus the casino, Mr. Schwartz said.
However, he said the company intends to build the Miami resort much faster — in three to five years — if it is permitted to include a casino.
"You can expect to see high-rises and ground-level" facilities, Mr. Schwartz said about the project. Company representatives have said "it would create thousands of permanent jobs," he added.
Arquitectonica, the Miami architectural firm hired by Genting, is expected to unveil more details of the proposal this fall, possibly in October.
In May, Genting announced it had bought the 13.9-acre Miami Herald site for $236 million from the newspaper's California parent, The McClatchy Co. Mr. Lowell, who also is senior managing director of Flagler Real Estate Services in Coral Gables, said the Genting deal was the largest cash purchase in memory in Miami real estate.
Meanwhile, Genting has given McClatchy two years to find a new site for the Herald. McClatchy has enlisted Blanca Commercial Real Estate to help it find a new home for Miami's flagship newspaper, Mr. Schwartz said. He also represents Blanca, but refused to discuss potential sites.
Kuala Lumpur-based Genting has multinational operations in tourism, resorts, gambling, plantations, power generation, and oil and gas.
Genting's market capitalization value, or net worth, reached $46 billion at the end of last year — making it one of Malaysia's largest companies. Genting employs about 58,000 people worldwide, according to the company's web site.
Indicative of Genting's deep pockets were the company's giant resorts that local leaders recently visited, Mr. Lowell said.
World Resorts Genting, also known as Genting Highlands, opened in 1965 and is the company's flagship resort in Malaysia. The resort features Malaysia's only land-based casino, six hotels, three theme parks, a convention center, and numerous restaurants and nightclubs, among other attractions.
Resorts World Sentosa, which opened last year in Singapore, features one of the world's most expensive casinos, six hotels, a Universal Studios theme park and a Marine Life Park, among other features. When fully opened, it is expected to employ more than 10,000 people.
Mr. Schwartz said Genting's properties emphasize the resort first and the casino second — which also would be the case in Miami. "It's almost the complete opposite of what you have in Las Vegas."
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