Malaysia is a beautiful and diverse country with many outstanding features. Its different regions each have their own unique characteristics. Aside from its tourist destinations, the country is also famous for being a gambling hotspot. Malaysia is home to some of the biggest gambling tycoons. Who are the gambling tycoons of Malaysia, and how did they get there?
There is money to be made in casinos, and these gambling tycoons are aware of that. For this reason, they have expanded their portfolios by building more and more casinos that offer more than just gambling but a lifestyle as well.
The late Lim Goh Tong is a self-made billionaire known for founding the Genting Group, the company behind the sole land-based casino in Malaysia. Lim was born in southern China. He is a high school graduate before he sailed to Malaysia to seek his fortune. With a small suitcase and $175, Lim set off to Malaysia and worked as a building contractor. In the early 1960s, Lim decided to develop and build a hilltop resort near Kuala Lumpur. The hilltop resort is now the venue of Genting Highlands, a major casino resort that helped jumpstart the Genting Group’s foray into other industries such as property, hospitality, plantations, power generation, gas, and oil. The company has a revenue of $5.2 billion.
Aside from Genting Highlands, Genting Group expanded and secured a Singapore casino contract. As of 2010, the Genting Group owns the most significant number of casinos in the UK, which totals 47 casinos. The group also has casino interests in the Philippines, Korea, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the US.
Lim Goh Tong retired as the company’s CEO. Since his retirement in 2003, the company is under the directive of his son Lim Khok Thay. Lim Goh Tong died in October 2007 but has made a significant contribution to the Genting Group and its foray into the gambling industry.
When his father died, Lim Khok Thay inherited most of the company’s stake. This decision resulted in a family squabble because instead of dividing the stake to three of his sons, the late Lim Goh Tong left the most significant stake to Kok Thay. Kok Thay serves as Genting Group’s CEO and Chairman. Under his management and directive, the gaming group invested in overseas casino projects. In just a short span of five years, he spent about $5 billion in several gambling resort projects in the Bahamas, the US, and the Philippines.
Khok Thay was responsible for steering the company to develop the casino-based “Resorts World” brand that made a name in various countries. He also helped the Mashantucket Pequots native American Indian tribe to build their first tribal casino now known as the Foxwoods Resorts Casino. By 2017, Khok Thay launched the $1.2 billion Resorts World Catskills in New York. The New York branch features 1.6 million square feet of casino floor space home to 150 gaming tables, 2,150 slot machines, and 5,222 video lottery terminals. He is also the co-founder of Genting Hong Kong Ltd, which used to be Star Cruises Limited. The cruise operator is the third-largest in the world along with Norwegian Cruise Line. They have a combined fleet of 18 ships.
The Malaysian Chinese businessman has a net worth of $3.6 billion. Most of this income comes from casinos. He ranks 7th in the Forbes list of Malaysia’s 50 Richest 2019 and 436th in the Billionaires 2019.
Chen Lip Keong is a Malaysian native but made his money in the Cambodia gambling scene. This self-made billionaire won his first Cambodian casino license in 1994. Since then, he has been one of the most influential creators of casino properties in the world. The70-year casino license enabled him to gain a 40-year monopoly of the gambling market within a 200-kilometre radius of Phnom Penh.
Chen serves as the chief executive and majority shareholder of NagaCorp, the owner of the NagaWorld casino resort complex located in the capital Phnom Penh. To date, NagaCorp has a market capitalisation of $51.57 billion. He successfully listed the first casino enterprise in the Hong Kong stock market. When he failed to secure bank loans to finance Naga2, Chen gambled $392 million from his own pocket via a convertible bond offering. He now owns 66% of the NagaCorp with a current valuation of $2.6 billion. NagaCorp is currently developing a casino resort in Russia’s far east.
Cambodia’s economic turnaround was mostly due to the substantial contribution of Chen and NagaWorld casino. The casino became a tourist hotspot across South East Asia. In 2017, 12% of Cambodia’s GDP was from tourism, and about 25% of this came from the casino.
Since its creation, NagaWorld has its eye on other casino resort developments to include Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Australia. Chen hopes to replicate his success in the Cambodian market by expanding his horizons. He is eyeing a Borneo resort that will become the keystone of a multibillion-dollar eco-tourism plan of the Malaysian government. His Malaysian companies, Petaling Tin and Karambunai, will control this development.
Forbes lists Chen as the 6th richest in Malaysia for 2019 and 355th in the Billionaires 2019. He has a net worth of $4.9 billion as of April 2019.
Most of these gambling tycoons are not casino gamblers. Chen, for one, is often called the accidental billionaire because he is a medical doctor who averted casinos. It is funny to think that these billionaires are gamblers in their own way. They gamble money by investing it in industries that make money.
In recent years, South East Asia has become the centre of gambling, with Macau headlining the region. Gambling is a big part of an Asian’s lifestyle. Many Asians gamble, not because they want to earn money. That’s only secondary. Asians gamble because it is their way of socialising with other people. Gambling makes them happy because it allows them to meet more people.