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Genting Makes New Bet On Miami Resort

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A unit of Malaysia's Genting, Southeast Asia's biggest gaming group, is making a renewed play for operations in Miami, after previous plans for a USD$3.1 billion resort two years ago failed to work out.

Genting Malaysia, a 47.1 percent subsidiary of Genting, on Thursday formalized an agreement with three US horse-racing associations to build a Miami resort offering slot machines and off-track betting.

Miami is an important gaming market with dog racing and horse racing well established and Genting's slot machine-focused facility would fit well with the older demographic of gamblers in the city. Genting's previous plans were criticized by local leaders as out of scale with the neighborhood.

Genting's original plan for a USD$3.1 billion resort envisioned several skyscrapers and two condominium towers and would have been one of the largest developments in Florida's history. The revised plans call for a casino with 2,000 slot machines as part of a smaller leisure and entertainment resort.

"We've been optimistic about Miami, but they've put a lot of money in there. This is a last ditch attempt to make things work, they're trying every avenue they can," said an analyst who did not want to be named.

Plans for the resort will depend on Genting receiving the appropriate licenses from authorities in Florida, which analysts say could prove to be a challenge.

Florida legislators have twice rejected proposals from developers of so-called "destination resorts" that would allow the creation of two to three sizable casino resorts so "the regulatory approval remains a key hurdle," said Kuala Lumpur-based Kenanga Research in a report.

Opposition came from Christian groups and companies such as Walt Disney that said the casinos would ruin the "family-friendly" nature of tourism in Florida.

"This agreement suggests that the original plan has gone down the drain, although we believe the market has prepared for it after Florida lawmakers rejected the plan to bring three major casinos to Miami," said Kuala Lumpur-based TA Research in a report.

TA Research said the new proposal is "one of the workable solutions" because the focus on slot machines and off-track betting to support Genting's nearby development of a 14 acre (5.7 hectare) parcel of land it acquired for USD$236 million in 2011.

The three associations Genting signed the deal with are Gulfstream Park Racing Association, the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' Association.

In addition to the Florida proposal, Genting last month said it would spend up to USD$4 billion to develop an unfinished resort on the Las Vegas strip.

Earnings from the United States made up 5.4 percent of the company's third-quarter revenue.

(Reuters)

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