Genting Group expects to go before Nevada gaming regulators
April 08, 2014 3:08 AM
by Phil Hevener
The Malaysia-based Genting Group expects to go before Nevada gaming regulators in May for the suitability ruling that will bring the start of construction on the Las Vegas Strip’s next super resort, a $2 billion project with an Asian theme.
It could pull the Las Vegas Strip from what’s left of the doldrums that characterized much of the last five or six years as the recession brought major projects by several companies to a screeching halt.
Caesars and MGM have been spending freely, upgrading the quality of the experiences they offer but there has never been anything like the launching of a major project to start the optimism and enthusiasm running freely.
Other groups with projects sitting on the shelf may follow suit if Genting progresses nicely toward an opening day two or three years from now using the 80 acres opposite the Wynn-Encore complex that it purchased from Boyd Gaming after Boyd called off its equally large resort development about five years ago.
Plans by the owners of New York City’s famed Plaza to create a Las Vegas version of the famed hotel were also abandoned as a result of the recession. The property that was formerly the site of the Frontier and Silver Slipper is immediately south of the Genting acreage.
Genting bought the land last year, promising to create a destination resort that has had Las Vegas leaders imagining a return to business levels that have not been seen since the travel business was hammered by the recessionary forces that stopped major projects.
Genting’s arrival with its big bankroll was seen as such good news that Gov. Brian Sandoval participated in the announcement of the Genting plans.
The Gaming Control Board is aiming for action at its May meeting but as seasoned followers of the licensing process know there is always the chance of a delay as investigators dot the I’s and cross the T’s on what has obviously been a complicated review.
This is not the first time Genting has taken a serious look at Las Vegas. The company briefly considered a purchase of the Dunes in the mid-1980s before that hotel and casino was bought by Steve Wynn and razed to make way for the Bellagio.
An interesting aspect of this case is that investigators have had to deal with a certain amount of “trash talk” aimed at Genting, presumably by competitors. Genting is busy in major jurisdictions around the world. There has been no indication any of the grumbling will provide a significant hurdle for the company.
There will certainly be tough questions but anything less than full approval is hard to imagine.
Genting is a company that’s capable of a lot of big things, which is one of the reasons not every company in the gaming and entertainment business welcomes it as competition either in Las Vegas or other areas.
Genting’s fascination with an eventual Florida location is well known. It spent millions purchasing bay front land in anticipation of being able to operate a resort there but those plans are on hold as all parties await legislative action that is not expected this year.
Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands competes with Genting in Singapore and is interested in South Florida where the influential Seminole tribe is working to keep its major casino monopoly intact.
Which brings us to whatever may develop in New York where influential forces with deep pockets are charting a future that appears likely to include major casino projects throughout the state.
Genting currently operates the slot machine casino at New York City’s Aqueduct Racetrack.
Everything about that facility involves big numbers. There are some 5,000 electronic games and Genting paid an upfront fee of nearly $400 million, all to gain access to a customer base of millions within a few miles of the front door.
Turning up the AC: MGM appears to be nursing hopes it can acquire full ownership of the Atlantic City Borgata once it is recertified there as a suitable owner of the property it co-owns with Boyd Gaming.
That’s one of the insights to come out of ongoing efforts by owners of the troubled Revel resort to find a buyer. They apparently approached MGM whose officials make it clear their focus is on the Borgata and the upcoming hearings before state officials this spring.
So what will happen at the Revel? Hard to say since it continues to be an issue with a lot of moving parts, but Carl Icahn may be the most likely buyer as the property appears headed toward another possible bankruptcy filing, the second since it opened nearly two years ago.
There has been no shortage of shoppers expressing an interest, but the deals they have offered are being characterized as ranging from “bizarre” to “not very likely.”
Why another bankruptcy?
The Revel’s current owners are financial people much more interested in turning some kind of profit and that has led to thinking about the necessity of eliminating some of the contracts that are burdensome to a resort that continues to struggle.
Offers by the Hard Rock organization and Caesars Entertainment have attracted some attention in the press but a source familiar with some of the talks said neither offer is likely to emerge as the winning bid.
Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fettitta is also said to be interested. He would move the Golden Nugget name to the Revel from the marina.
Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. He can be reached at PhilHevener@GamingToday.com.