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Giant jump-start planned for Strip: Malaysian firm to revive Stardust site

Malaysian-based Genting group Monday announced it is acquiring the 87-acre Echelon site on the Strip — former site of the Stardust — and plans to build a $2 billion hotel-casino complex there.

Genting, which operates casinos in Singapore and New York City, will pay Boyd Gaming Corp. $350 million for Echelon, a project which has sat unused since August, 2008, when credit markets soured and Boyd halted construction on what it had planned as a multi-tower, $4.8 billion resort.

The initial phase of the newly announced Resorts World Las Vegas would include 3,500 rooms and a 175,000-square-foot casino.

Resorts World Las Vegas is expected to open in 2016 with multiple restaurants and dining options, along with 250,000 square feet of retail, more than 500,000 square feet of convention space, a theater and an outdoor pool.

This entrance of the Genting Group into the Las Vegas market should not be confused with the speculation of some wing-and-a-prayer promoter with nothing but high hopes and a scale model. Analysts consider Genting one of the world’s top hotel-casino operators.

Founded in 1965, Genting includes five public companies that employ more than 58,000 workers worldwide, with a combined market capitalization as of Jan. 31 of $38 billion.

Genting’s best-known properties are Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore — which last year produced $2.94 billion in gaming revenues, nearly half as much as the entire Strip — and Resorts World New York, attached to the Aqueduct Racetrack in New York City, which in 2012 reported gaming revenues of more than $638 million.

Yes, the firm must still earn state regulatory approval, and any project this large can still be subject to the economic winds. But this is a player with the resources to potentially snap the Las Vegas market out of its five-year holding pattern — an experienced developer which thus expresses confidence in our city’s long-term prospects, even as it downsizes a planned Miami project as lawmakers in Tallahassee dawdle over gaming legalization.

“The Genting Group and Resorts World Las Vegas will bring several thousand new jobs to our state and will help us in keeping our economic resurgence on the right path toward success,” announced a cheerful Gov. Brian Sandoval, this weekend.

Genting’s announcement marks the second north Strip revitalization project announced this year. Last month, SBE Entertainment began a $400 million renovation of the Sahara into the SLS Las Vegas.

The Strip has never faltered as a top tourist draw, but average room rates have been adjusted downward, and the gaming handle has been in a holding pattern. New investment, new competition, and thousands of new jobs just three years away? It’s hard to imagine better news.

The views expressed above are those of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. All other opinions expressed on the Opinion and Commentary pages are those of the individual artist or author indicated.

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