Malaysia weighs casino licence to revive Forest City

MALAYSIA is in early discussions with tycoons on opening a casino in Forest City, sources familiar with the matter said, in a bid to revive the beleaguered US$100 billion property project that counts the country’s monarch as one of its shareholders.

(Business Times) – Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim met Berjaya founder Vincent Tan and Genting Group’s Lim Kok Thay last week at the development on the southern coast of Malaysia near Singapore, the sources said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. King Ibrahim Iskandar was also represented, the sources said.

The talks are preliminary and it’s unclear how seriously Anwar is taking the idea, which could cause a backlash in the Muslim-majority nation where gambling is frowned upon.

A casino would be a boost for Forest City, the sprawl of high-rise condominiums built on reclaimed land by the Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings. It has struggled to attract residents from China and elsewhere, thwarted by a litany of hurdles including political resistance in Malaysia, a Chinese government crackdown on citizens buying real estate overseas and the Covid-19 pandemic.

It would also be a boon for King Ibrahim, a billionaire businessman himself who controls more than 20 per cent of the joint venture with Country Garden that’s the master developer of Forest City, according to company filings. Members of the royal family or proxies of the king may also be invited to take a stake in any casino, one of the sources said.

Anwar, senior government officials and the businessmen had lunch and meetings on the possibility of granting what would only be Malaysia’s second-ever casino licence.