A Look at Genting: The Powerhouse Tapped to Build New Convention Center

Friday, January 06, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing to build the nation’s largest convention center at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. He hasn’t shared many details of the plan, but one thing is clear: the governor’s choice to build the complex is a little-known Asian conglomerate with big ambitions.

Cuomo told his audience at the State of the State address on Wednesday that the new convention center would attract the best trade shows and lift the economy.

What he didn’t say is that he’d already signed a non-binding agreement with a developer: Genting Berhad Malaysia, one of the biggest gaming conglomerates in the world. The company, which translates its name as 'Top of the Mountain,' was founded with the creation of a mountaintop resort near Kuala Lumpur in the 1960s.

Over the years, the Lim family, the company’s largest shareholder, has expanded Genting in all directions — from casinos across Asia and Britain to oil wells in China and Morocco and palm oil plantations in Malaysia.

Last year, Genting established a foothold in the Big Apple: the racino at Aqueduct Racetrack, which is already considered a success. In the first 10 days, bettors spent more than $160 million, and Genting sent $15 million in taxes to Albany.

Christian Goode, senior vice president of development for Genting Americas, said expanding from a racino to a convention center with three thousand hotel rooms is the logical next step.

 “Our chairman has a vision that talks about destination resorts, talks about bringing something new to the market that hasn’t been here,” Goode said.

 John Oh, a research analyst with CLSA Securities, thinks the convention center is really the side dish to a much larger main, one consisting of restaurants, hotels and entertainment.

 Mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks the governor’s idea is good, but added that like any big development project in New York City, this one will make enemies.

The lack of transparency surrounding the choice of Genting has raised concerns among good government groups. Common Cause’s Susan Lerner is alarmed the governor’s plan advanced so far without public input.

“I think the speed with which the deal was inked really raises some significant questions. The public is entitled to details before a deal of this size is concluded, not after the fact,” Lerner said.

It’s not yet clear what permissions or hurdles will have to be cleared for deal to go through.

Genting projects that if it gets all the necessary approvals, it could complete work on the convention center in 2014.

Andrew Parsons contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this article indicated that the racino at Aqueduct took in $15 million in the first 10 days it was open. This was incorrect. In the first ten days, bettors  spent more than $160 million, and Genting send $15 million in taxes to Albany. WNYC regrets the error.

(Renderings courtesy of Genting)


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Comments [6]

John from Manhattan

Dear WNYC,
It is sad day for the citizens of NY especially Manhattan to hear the plans from our leader, Andy the Giant Cuomo. Andy has been mainlining the gambling as a solution since he planned to run for the state’s highest office. Before his election, Andy went to a find raiser in Rode Island from the GTECH Company (an International Company) who is the contractor for the NY Lottery. Much money was raised at that event.

From State Line, The two states that asked for the opinion are planning to move forward quickly. New York will add two games online, and Illinois could offer lottery tickets online within three months, The New York Times reported earlier. A company (NORTHSTAR Lottery Group) owned by GTECH, employing former retired NY State Lottery employees, are the silent forces behind this internet gambling. When was the public asked if selling lottery games on the internet is safe and prudent for the families of NY.

With all the scandals concerning the bidding process at Aqueduct Racetrack, one must wonder on how many envelopes of cash have been given out and of course how many more will be.

The current trade shows that come to the Javits Center come to Manhattan not to NYC outer boroughs. Manhattan hotels, Manhattan Restaurants, Manhattan Theatres, and Manhattan retail stores etc. depend on this business traffic.

As increase frequency, locations and products of NY State sponsored gambling becomes more harmful and dangerous to the individuals and their families Andy should take a hard look at the state role as a PUSHER. Addiction takes many forms beside drugs, heroin and other related drugs.
NY State sponsored gambling is harmful and addictive. To give more legitimacy to this evil via the convention center is foolish and destructive to the Javits CTR, Manhattan Businesses & our citizens.

Andy, if you want to be a real hero bring back manufacturing jobs to NY.

Andy, you can start by having the New York State Lottery purchase their promotional items like T-shirts, hats, bags etc. from NY state manufacturers or at least USA manufacturers rather than buying foreign.

Very truly yours,

Union John
CSEA Region 2

Jan. 07 2012 09:36 AM

how about just a Javits do-over? the place is such a grim embarrassment-- but with proper design, could be an airy, exciting, mixed use facility with walkways, river access, limited residential, and large enough to accommodate projected commercial needs. no gambling necessary.

Jan. 06 2012 05:04 PM
kthmcgv from queens

I don't think revenue from a gambling center in eastern Queens is a 'success' for anyone in the community. Taking money from already lower income people will not result in anything positive in the long run. This is not an investment in our future. Just because is provides tax dollars to the state...success!

Jan. 06 2012 01:53 PM
Barbara from Manhattan

Cuomo's lack of transparency is dangerous, and this deal should be made more transparent NOW. History demonstrates that the little guy citizen winds up paying for the big deals that promise so much, and then fail because of lack of real analysis. Can we afford this when hospitals are failing?

Jan. 06 2012 01:22 PM

The only thing attractive about this plan is the redhead in the rendering.

Jan. 06 2012 12:15 PM
Queensresident from Queens

So, let's see. They want to build a giant convention center, that even if it were accessible by high speed light rail to midtown manhattan in 30 minutes, is an idea that doesn't scale. Conventions are held in City Centers, especially one's like Manhattan. People go to the convention during the day, and they want to party at night. This means going to theater, restaurants, nice hotels, etc. They don't want to be segregated at the outskirts of an outer borough. If they want to spend they're time gambling, frankly Las Vegas is a much better option, and it's cheaper too.

This sounds like an attempt to free up west side land for the real estate developers, and give in to some out of country developer who has no roots in this community which is already environmentally frail and over developed.

We need to dig much deeper into the process and who is really behind this,

Jan. 06 2012 09:14 AM

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