Malaysia Government Denies Reports County Considering Casino Near Singapore

Estimated read time 3 min read

The government in Malaysia has quickly fired back on a report from Bloomberg suggesting the Southeast Asia nation is considering allowing a casino resort to be built near Singapore.

Forest City in Malaysia. The Malaysian government is denying reports that it’s considering authorizing a second casino in the country in the southern end near Singapore. (Image: The Malaysian Reserve)

Bloomberg reported Wednesday that Malaysia Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim met last week with two of his country’s richest people — Genting Group casino billionaire Lim Kok Thay and lottery billionaire magnate Vincent Tan of Berjaya Corporation. The trio reportedly discussed developing an integrated casino resort in Forest City, the unfinished $100 billion special economic zone that’s partially controlled by the Malaysian government and King Ibrahim Iskandar of Johor.

Not true. That’s a lie,” said Anwar on Thursday while speaking with reporters at an event in Putrajaya regarding the purported casino discussions. The prime minister made an “X” gesture with his arms while denying the Bloomberg story.

Forest City is a one-square-mile mixed-use development on reclaimed land on Malaysia’s southern tip bordering Singapore. The $100 billion scheme was initiated in 2016 by a Chinese consortium. King Ibrahim, a billionaire businessman in his own right, holds a more than 20% stake in the development.   

Lim’s Genting possesses the only casino license in Malaysia at the company’s Genting Highlands resort in Pahang. Genting also owns and operates Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore.

Economic Challenges

The developers of Forest City built numerous high-end condominium and residential towers, plus hotels, retail space, and office buildings. The offerings were primarily tailored toward affluent Chinese people seeking to park their wealth overseas in a more favorable tax environment.

Several causes resulted in lackluster sales, which has rendered Forest City a ghost town.

The political crisis in Malaysia between 2020 and 2022, which involved numerous politicians switching parties and throwing the control of the government into chaos, paired with the COVID-19 pandemic, slowed sales and interest from Chinese buyers. China’s subsequent crackdown on Chinese people trying to reduce their tax liability by investing overseas only exacerbated the problem.

China has also restricted VIP travel groups from operating in Macau, the casino hub where most mainland Chinese high rollers gambled before the coronavirus. China President Xi Jinping said the massive outflow of cash through the tax haven that is Macau posed national security risks.

Forest City Lifeline

A Genting-built casino in Forest City could reignite interest in the economic zone, as wealthy gamblers throughout Asia seek a new destination for their gambling trips as the Macau market continues to change.

Genting Highlands relies almost exclusively on foreigners, as Islam — the dominant religion in Malaysia — bars its followers from games of chance. Lim’s father, Lim Goh Tong, secured Malaysia’s lone casino concession in 1969.

Genting has since become one of the world’s largest gaming companies. Along with Malaysia and Singapore, Genting has integrated casino resorts in New York, Las Vegas, the Philippines, the Bahamas, and the United Kingdom.

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