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Genting is betting on Japan for latest growth push

A visitor walks past the casino at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore.
Sanjit Das | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A visitor walks past the casino at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore.

The chips are down for many Asian casino operators amid an extensive anti-corruption drive in China and slowing global economic growth. The Genting Group may just have the winning hand.

Despite many of its Asian peers seeing a slump in business, the Genting Group's gaming revenues have not been impacted as severely, says Lim Kok Thay, chairman of the Genting Group. The Malaysian conglomerate, which operates a diversified portfolio of businesses in the gaming, leisure, and real estate sectors, currently owns casinos in countries including the United Kingdom, Singapore and the U.S.

"For Resorts World Singapore … not being at the doorstep of Macau, we have been less impacted (by the anti-graft campaign)," says Lim Kok Thay, chairman of the Genting Group, referring to the company's integrated resorts operations in Singapore.

Other measures taken by the company to mitigate the downturn include being more selective in its credit policy and gaming limits to offset lower revenues with fewer bad debt write-offs. The Genting Group has also been resilient due to its ability to "draw from neighboring (ASEAN) countries instead of just Chinese and Singaporean casino-goers," Lim tells CNBC's "Managing Asia."

Genting also has its eyes on developing integrated resorts in East Asia. The news that long-awaited casino legislation could finally be passed in Japan is another reason for the company's interest in the region.Casinos are currently illegal in the country.

"Now that (Japanese legislation) is back on (track), Genting would definitely want to be a player when legislation is passed on the 2 or 3 integrated resorts," Lim says.

With Japan modelling the proposed casino development on Singapore's integrated resort framework, Lim believes that the Genting Group possesses an edge that its competitors do not.

The term refers to the gaming-integrated leisure resorts pioneered by the city-state when it first allowed legal casino operations in 2010. Genting Group's Resorts World Sentosa premises include convention halls, the Universal Studios theme park and a luxury shopping center. Currently, the Genting Group and Las Vegas Sands are the only two players in the integrated resort business in Singapore.

"We … know those rules the best and I think both of us stand a great chance in the market," Lim says, adding that the large domestic market in Japan gives it a one-up over the smaller Singapore market.

Despite being one of the world's largest gaming companies, Lim says that he's not anxious over entering Macau, one of the world's most important gambling centers.

"As time goes on, I think (breaking into Macau) becomes less and less of a desire because (of) Macau being on the doorstep of China. I think the peak has happened … and (the arrest of Crown's staff in China) has been a bit of a shock to the industry," Lim says.

"In a way, it can be said … that we're lucky we are not there because it's a rather anxious time at the moment for Macau," he says.

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