Malaysia Explores Second Casino License to Revitalize Forest City, Discussions Underway

Malaysia Explores Second Casino License to Revitalize Forest City, Discussions Underway

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia recently engaged in discussions with two influential business magnates to contemplate the establishment of a casino in Forest City, as per a Bloomberg report citing insider sources. The potential opening of this casino could mark the issuance of only the second casino license in Malaysia’s history.

The deliberations involved Anwar, key government figures, and the businessmen over a meal, focusing on the feasibility of awarding a new casino license to invigorate the economic scene in Forest City. Notable business personalities involved in these preliminary talks included Vincent Tan of Berjaya Corp and Lim Kok Thay of the Genting Group. Representation for Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar was also present, indicating the high level of interest and potential impact of this project.

Official Responses on Second Casino in Forest City

The discussions are at an early stage, and it remains uncertain how committed the government is towards authorizing this new gambling venue, especially considering the sole existing casino at Genting Highlands.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has refuted claims that the country is contemplating the issuance of a second casino license, labelling such reports as “false.”

The question was raised to Anwar by local reporters on Thursday following a Bloomberg article suggesting that Malaysia might grant another casino license to boost the declining prospects of a $100 billion housing project in Johor known as Forest City. The article also mentioned that the Prime Minister had discussions with Genting Group Chairman and CEO Lim Kok Thay – whose Genting Highlands resort is the sole holder of a casino license in Malaysia – and Berjaya Corp founder Vincent Tan regarding the proposal.

Responding to inquiries, a spokesperson from Berjaya denied any current plans for a casino project in Forest City. The Prime Minister’s Office and Istana Negara have yet to offer comments on the matter.

Read more: Genting Casino Highlands, Malaysia: Your Guide 2024

Economic Revitalization in Malaysia with New Casinos in Forest City

This development comes after Prime Minister Anwar’s announcement eight months ago about the creation of a Special Financial Zone (SFZ) in Forest City, aimed at boosting Johor’s economy and revitalizing the area, which has faced challenges including a downturn in interest from Chinese property buyers due to Beijing’s crackdown on capital outflows and impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic.

johor's forest city casino for revitalizing

Last week, Johor’s Chief Minister Onn Hafiz Ghazi highlighted that a meeting led by Anwar discussed the SFZ, covering various topics such as the Johor-Singapore special economic zone, investment prospects, and potential incentives.

Project Opposition and Historical Context

The proposed casino project is part of broader efforts to inject life into Forest City, a development originally envisioned as a sustainable “green city” on artificial islands, developed by China’s Country Garden in partnership with firms linked to the Johor sultanate.

Former Malaysian leader Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who had opposed the project, expressed concerns previously that it catered more to foreign interests rather than local needs. He had notably restricted foreign ownership in the project during his tenure.

Balancing Benefits and Concerns: Economic Revitalization Efforts in Malaysia with New Casinos

Royal Involvement and Future Prospects 

Sources suggest that the royal family or representatives might be invited to invest in the casino, indicating potential high-profile backing for the initiative. As these discussions evolve, further insights are expected from senior officials and the Prime Minister’s Office.

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Gambling Laws in Malaysia

Aspect Description
General Rule Most forms of gambling are illegal due to religious and cultural reasons.
Common Gaming Houses Act 1953 Makes operating or being inside a gambling den illegal.
Betting Act 1953 Prohibits sports betting and bookmaking.
Sharia Law For Muslims (over 60% of population), Islamic law additionally prohibits gambling.
Lotteries Licensed lotteries are one of the few legal forms of gambling.
Casinos Very limited number of heavily regulated casinos exist (e.g., Genting Highlands) for non-Muslims and tourists only.
Online Gambling Not specifically addressed by law, but likely illegal under existing gambling acts. The government restricts access to online gambling sites.
Penalties Range from fines to imprisonment for illegal gambling.

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