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Malaysia’s $100bn Forest City – A New Era with a Casino?

by Violet Dawson
0 comment

Meetings and lunch were held with Anwar, senior government officials, and businessmen to discuss the possibility of issuing Malaysia’s second-ever casino license.

Malaysia is in preliminary discussions with tycoons on the opening of a casino in Forest City, individuals acquainted with the matter said, in a bid to restore the overwhelmed $100 billion property project that considers the country’s ruler one of its investors.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim met Berjaya Corp.’s founder Vincent Tan and Genting Group’s Lim Kok Thay last week at the improvement on the southern shore of Malaysia close to Singapore, individuals said, asking not to be identified owing to the fact that the data is private. The populace claimed that King Ibrahim Iskandar was also represented.

The talks, however, are still in their infancy, and it is not clear how seriously Anwar is taking the idea. This could also lead to a backlash in the Muslim-majority nation, which bans gambling.

Forest City, the sprawl of high-rise condominiums built on reclaimed land by Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings Co., would benefit from a casino. It has faced numerous obstacles, including political opposition in Malaysia, a Chinese government crackdown on citizens purchasing overseas real estate, and the COVID-19 pandemic, that have made it difficult to attract residents from China and other countries.

According to company filings, it would also be advantageous for King Ibrahim, a billionaire businessman who owns more than 20% of the joint venture with Country Garden which is the master developer of Forest City. One of the individuals stated that proxies of the king or members of the royal family may also be invited to take a stake in any casino.

Meetings and lunch were held with Anwar, senior government officials, and businessmen to discuss the possibility of issuing Malaysia’s second-ever casino license. A person with knowledge of the situation, who requested anonymity due to the confidentiality of the information, stated that Country Garden is eager to include a casino in the development.

A representative for Berjaya said the organisation does not know about any discussion between Prime Minister Anwar and Tan on the likely improvement of any casino in Forest City. The National Palace, Genting and Country Garden did not answer requests for comment.

On Thursday, Berjaya Corp.’s stock rose faster than the market as a whole by as much as 12%. Genting Malaysia Bhd.’s fell by 1.5% and Genting Singapore Ltd.’s shares fell as much as 4.3%.

In Malaysia, the two tycoons are among the most well-known businesspeople. Genting Bhd’s chairman is Lim. His dad, Lim Goh Tong, won the endorsement in 1969 to open Malaysia’s memorable first casino in a slope resort in the central part of the country. Additionally, Genting has casinos in Singapore, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Tan is engaged with organisations ranging from real estate development to brands like 7-Eleven and Starbucks in Malaysia. According to reports in the local media, he has long desired to obtain a casino license in Malaysia but has been turned down at least twice. King Ibrahim owns Berjaya Assets Bhd directly, and his daughter chairs Berjaya Corp. and Berjaya Land Bhd’s rail division.

In January, King Ibrahim, the sultan of Johor, Malaysia’s southernmost state and home to Forest City, succeeded to the throne. Malaysia has an exceptionally established government where nine hereditary rulers alternate to serve five-year terms.

Anwar, who is in charge of a coalition government that is made up of almost 20 different parties, may find it challenging to pursue the development of another casino in Malaysia. Muslims are not even permitted to enter Malaysia’s casino because Islam forbids gambling.

Gaming is quite possibly one of the most controlled sectors in Malaysia. The casino license must be renewed every three months at the finance minister’s discretion. Additionally, Anwar is also the finance minister.

However, the government would benefit financially from a brand-new casino. According to a report from UOB Kay Hian, a Singapore-based brokerage, the existing casino contributed as much as 5 billion ringgit ($1 billion) annually, prior to the pandemic.

Forest City is constructed on land close to Singapore and is connected to Johor via a bridge. In order to boost trade between the two neighbours, the city-state and Malaysia agreed in January to jointly develop a special economic zone in the state. Singaporeans, who must pay S$150 ($110) for day entry into one of the city-state’s casinos, would be interested in having a casino in Johor.

Country Garden, which was once hailed as China’s biggest developer, has now become one of the greatest casualties in the nation’s real estate crisis. The company’s shares were suspended from trading in Hong Kong as a result of a recent warning that it would miss a deadline for reporting annual results.

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