Crown won’t need ‘new’ Sri Lanka casino license; Genting Highlands $950m facelift

crown-genting-highlandsThere’s been a little more clarity shed on Australian casino operator Crown Ltd.’s proposed resort-casino project in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. Early reports by Sri Lankan legislators said the $350m (or $400m, depending on who’s talking) project wouldn’t contain a casino. But then Crown’s local partner, Rank Entertainment’s Ravi Wijeratne, said the project would contain a casino. The waters were muddied further this week after Minister of Economic Development Lakshman Yapa Abeywardane told Daily News Business that the government had no intention of issuing any new casino licenses in Colombo.

However, once you parse that statement, you realize that the government is emphasizing the impossibility of any ‘new’ casino licenses. Abeywardena told reporters that while his department had approved a “mixed development and not a casino,” it was up to the project’s partners if they decided to move an already licensed casino’s operations to the new project. Rank’s Stardust Casino is located in the same area in which Crown’s joint venture is set to be built, and Wijeratne has stated his intention to move his operations into the joint venture’s new facility. Regardless, Abeywardena said the project would be presented to parliament as a strategic investment, qualifying it to receive a 12-year tax holiday, assuming Sri Lanka’s politicians approve.

The promise of increased regional casino competition is behind Genting Malaysia Bhd’s plans to modernize its flagship Genting Highlands resort casino. The 42-year-old hilltop gaming spot (pictured above) alternately known as Resorts World Genting is having a hard time competing with Johnny-come-lately mega-casinos in Macau, Singapore (where Genting Singapore has one of the two highly lucrative gaming joints), the Philippines and elsewhere, so Genting plans to spend MYR 3b ($951m) giving the old girl a facelift. Speaking on the sidelines of Genting’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, chairman Lim Kok Thay told Edge Financial Daily that the motivation behind the upgrade was simple: “to double our profit.”

Lim said the MYR 3b sum was “just a ballpark figure” intended to gauge investor sentiment. Genting’s board has yet to approve the plans, but Lim said the company had been “investing substantial amounts overseas and it is now a good time to also invest here back home.” Lim said the board had been given plenty of feedback on what changes people would like to see and said Genting “will do our best” to make their dreams a reality. Assuming the board approves, the plans are expected to be finalized before the year is through.