Genting’s Strip project may house studio tour-type theme park

There may not be pandas, but the Strip may house a studio tour-type theme park once Malaysia-based Genting Berhad finishes developing an 87-acre site for Resorts World Las Vegas.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board on Wednesday recommended Genting be given a preliminary finding of suitability to hold a state gaming license. The Nevada Gaming Commission will take up the matter May 22.

Genting will still need to apply for a full gaming license before Resorts World Las Vegas can open.

Construction of the development will take place over multiple years and include at least two or three phases.

The initial phase will cost $4 billion and will include 3,000 hotel rooms, a casino with a combined 3,500 slot machines and table games, 30 food and beverage outlets, a 4,000-seat theater and an elaborate garden attraction that will serve as the property’s front door to the Strip.

Genting will also build a rooftop sky park and observation deck atop the 674-foot-tall tower, whose height has already been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, company officials told the Control Board during a presentation at the Sawyer Building that lasted more than two hours.

Other attractions include a 50,000 square foot, 58-foot-tall aquarium that will feature a variety of exotic fish.

Christian Goode, who oversees Genting’s Americas division, said site development is already underway on the northern Strip land parcel on which the unfinished Echelon buildings stand.

Goode said Genting plans to incorporate 80 percent to 85 percent of the Echelon buildings into the Resorts World development. He said it will take 24 to 36 months to complete the project’s first phase on the former Stardust site

“You should see some major development by the second half of the year,” Goode said.

According to renderings and a video Genting displayed during the presentation, Resorts World Las Vegas’ exterior will have an Asia-themed look with red as a dominant color. The shopping area along the Strip will resemble a Chinese village.

Goode said the company was evaluating the next phases, which include additional hotels, a 1 million square foot convention center, a water park, more restaurants and other amenities.

The Control Board heard a comprehensive description of Genting, which collected $5.2 billion in revenue in 2013, has cash on hand of more than $5 billion and has just $3 billion in long-term debt.

The company has a market capitalization of more than $40 billion and operates casinos around the world, including Resorts World properties in Singapore, Malaysia and Manila, Philippines, and at New York’s Aqueduct Racetrack. Genting has five separate publicly traded entities that operate casinos and other investments.

Genting also has investments and businesses in biotech/life science research, energy production, oil and gas exploration, plantations and property development.

“This is a good application and good company,” Control Board member Terry Johnson said. “I look forward to seeing the things we heard about today.”

While describing Resorts World Malaysia, Genting President and Chief Operating Officer Kong Han Tan told the Control Board the company will add a 20th Century Fox World studio tour-style theme park that is expected to open in 2016.

When questioned by Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett, Tan said the company is considering adding a similar theme park to one of the next phases of Resorts World Las Vegas.

Control Board member Sean Reid asked whether the company was still considering a live panda exhibit at the Strip resort.

Goode said there are many hurdles to clear with the Chinese government before the company could get a panda permit.

“It’s a complicated process,” Goode said. “We’re looking into it.”

Genting Chairman KT Lim told the regulators that Resorts World Las Vegas would increase visitation to Southern Nevada, primarily from foreign destinations. The company has a customer database with more than 1 million names.

“Cannibalizing the Las Vegas existing market is not an option,” Lim said. “We think we can drive new visitation to Las Vegas.”

Goode said an economic analysis on phase one showed the development would provide $1.5 billion in construction wages and $84 million in taxes. He said construction would employ several thousand workers. Genting is working on a project labor agreement with the building and construction trades that is expected to be completed before work begins.

Once open, the property would account for 8,500 direct jobs and 3,300 indirect jobs. It’s projected the development will provide $155 million in annual tax revenue.

State gaming agents spent more than a year investigating Genting and its multiple companies and personnel.

Burnett said he and other board members had zero concerns with any of the applicants.

The only issues raised during the hearing were fines leveled against Genting’s Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore over minors being in the casino and allowing customers to remain in the casino beyond the 24-hour time limit.

Genting officials said the company changed its compliance procedures, and the Singapore government changed laws so customers can be fined if they remain beyond the time limit.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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