Malaysian Casino Developer Wins BIG in NY

One of Malaysia’s most prominent casino developers was a big behind-the-scenes winner last week when a New York board made its much-awaited recommendations of where three casinos should be located.

Lim Kok Thay ’s investment company, Kien Huat Realty of Malaysia, is the controlling shareholder of Empire Resorts Inc., NYNY +4.23% which got the nod to build what would be the closest Las Vegas-style casino to New York City. Empire’s partner in its bid is EPR Properties, which owns the land in Thompson, N.Y., where the 80,000 square foot Montreign Resort Casino would be developed.

Mr. Lim’s family has been a major player in the Asian gambling industry. It controls the Genting Highlands Resort, a gaming destination in the mountains near Kuala Lumpur, a Singapore casino and a range of other businesses including Star Cruises.

In recent years, Mr. Lim has been increasingly active in the U.S. gambling business. One of Genting’s subsidiaries, Resorts World Casino New York City, operates a racetrack and “racino” near New York’s JFK Airport. Empire Resorts owns a harness-racing track and racino in Monticello, N.Y.

The Montreign casino, which would include a 391-room hotel, would cost about $630 million to develop, according to Emanuel Pearlman, the chairman of Empire Resorts. He said Credit Suisse AG has committed to provide $477 million in senior debt and that Empire Resorts would raise $180 million in equity through a rights offering backstopped by Kien Huat.

Mr. Pearlman said Empire Resorts is now waiting for the New York Gaming Commission to give the project the necessary license to move forward. “We can’t wait to start building,” Mr. Pearlman said.

—Peter Grant from WSJ