Business

Gambling giant Genting finally gets to run a South Florida casino

MARSHA HALPER/MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Unable to gain a foothold in Miami, gambling giant Genting Malaysia Berhad has done the next best thing: They’ve made a deal to running a casino on the county line.

Genting, which bought The Miami Herald building in 2011 with hopes of opening a waterfront resort-hotel casino, has entered into a consulting agreement for the casino portion of Gulfstream Park. Executives quietly moved into place this fall and are now overseeing all casino operations, including financial reporting, slot promotions and player hosting, Genting and Gulfstream executives confirmed.

The Hallandale Beach property — home to a horse racing track, casino, and shopping-and-dining complex — extends south across the Miami-Dade County line to the edge of Aventura.

Genting operates about 10 large casinos under its Resorts World brand. Most garner much larger revenues than Gulfstream Park. New York’s Resorts World Aqueduct, for example, took in $845 million via slots in its most recent fiscal year, while Gulfstream Park collected $48 million in slots.

“Gulfstream Park is a storied race facility which has long been considered a leader in thoroughbred horse racing,” Michael Levoff, senior vice president of public affairs at Genting, said in a statement. “By taking over management of the existing casino, Genting will modernize the current gaming offerings to a similar best-in-class level as the race facility. Gulfstream Park is an ideal location to expand our offerings in the region to include a top casino destination in South Florida.”

Levoff added that Genting would not add Gulfstream Park to its Resorts World brand at this time. He declined to disclose financial terms of the deal.

Gulfstream Park has been the lone South Florida racetrack casino focused more on its racing business rather than slots and poker. Austrian businessman Frank Stronach bought Gulfstream in 1999 and has offered larger purses and incentives to South Florida trainers, muscling out the other South Florida thoroughbred track, Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens.

Stronach, now 84, himself also has spoken ill of gambling, telling a central New York newspaper in 2014 that a "casino is a taxation of the poor."

"In the long run, it fills gaps in certain budgets," he said. He said he offers slot machines at the race course because "we just felt we have so much catching up to do. I think in a few years we would not rely on them but it's not the greatest for society, right?"

Genting, which has long been a partner in Norwegian Cruise Line and his holding company, made headlines in South Florida when it purchased the former Miami Herald site in downtown Miami in 2011 for $236 million.

Since then, the company has strengthened its Florida presence, opening a local office for Crystal Cruises (which it purchased in 2015 through one its subsidiaries) and launching ferry service to Bimini, where it opened Resorts World Bimini in 2013. The Bahamas allow craps and roulette, both illegal in Florida. The Bimini operation also features blackjack, which is allowed only at casinos owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The $46 billion company has repeatedly sought but failed to receive legislative support to open a gaming facility on the site. It also explored legalizing hotel casinos via a constitutional amendment, before research showed no chance of passage.

Last December the company was close to entering Florida’s market via the front door. As Gov. Rick Scott proposed a $3 billion, seven-year agreement with the Seminole tribe for table games, the bill contained several sweeteners, including a lower tax rate, blackjack for racetrack casinos, and an additional gambling license in Miami-Dade that would have been awarded via competitive bid.

Genting has not yet developed its bayfront land at the former Miami Herald site. Last week, Art Miami, the annual December art fair currently held in Midtown, announced it would move its tents to the site in 2017. Asked about its long-term plans for the Herald site, Genting said it is focusing on its Bimini property, its Hilton Miami Downtown hotel and the new venture at Gulfstream.

Miami Herald staff writer Nicholas Nehamas contributed to this report

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