Economy Projects Real Estate

Genting Group opening luxury boutique casino in Bimini

Bimini Bay Resort & Marina will partner with the Malaysian company. Construction has already begun on the casino.

Genting Group’s efforts to bring a casino to Miami may be uncertain, but the Malaysian company has found a way to plant its flag just a stone’s throw away from South Florida.

Genting Group has signed a deal to open Resorts World Bimini Bay, a luxury boutique casino at Bimini Bay Resort & Marina in North Bimini Island.

The deal, which is scheduled to be announced Friday in Nassau, is a strategic partnership between Genting Malaysia Berhad and RAV Bahamas, the developer of Bimini Bay and the Rockewell Island Beach Estates. This will be the only casino on the island of Bimini and the closest offshore casino to South Florida, only 48 nautical miles off the coast and accessible by a half-hour plane flight or a 2 1/2-hour boat trip. Before the casino opens, the owners of Bimini Bay will partner in the launch of a high-speed ferry service that will make the trip from South Florida in 90 minutes.

The casino is designed as an attraction for visitors to Bimini, a sleepy Bahamian island known more for its fishing than Las Vegas-style nightlife.

“The casino has always been an amenity we wanted to provide as part of our multi-tiered, mixed-use development,” said Leslie Bethel, chief operating officer for RAV Bahamas. “Everything happens in time. We were smart. We know [a casino] is something you develop when you have the ability to generate the traffic. Now we have the critical mass that we can go forward.”

Genting Group declined Thursday through a spokesman to speak to The Herald about the Bimini project. It will not be the first time Genting has done business in the Bahamas. In 1986, the company built the Lucayan Beach Resort and Casino in Freeport in a joint venture with the Bahamian government.

“We are delighted to return to the Bahamas and be a part of this exciting resort community,” Dana Leibovitz, president of Resorts World Bimini Bay, said in a statement. “Our shared vision to offer gaming entertainment, luxury amenities and world-class service will continue to attract many new visitors to the Bahamas’ gateway destination just minutes away from South Florida and other major U.S. cities by air and sea.”

Bimini Bay Resort & Marina is a master-planned oceanfront community on 560 acres developed by Chairman Gerardo Capo of Miami and his family. The project began construction in 2003 and opened its first phase in late 2007, bringing a luxury resort to the typically rustic island that was once a haunt of author Ernest Hemingway.

Today, Bimini Bay has over 480 luxury homes and villas, the largest yacht marina complex in the Bahamas, a shopping village, four restaurants and a Beach Club. Just over half of the units at Bimini Bay are rented out as part of a condo-hotel program. Since it opened, the annual visitors to Bimini have grown by about 50 percent hitting 50,000, Bethel said.RAV Bahamas signed a deal in 2005 to open a casino and luxury hotel with Conrad Hotels, Hilton’s luxury brand. But the economy was one reason that didn’t happen, Bethel said.

Genting Group had always been high on the developer’s wish list. RAV Bahamas had known Genting from Grand Bahama Island and first approached the Malaysian company more than 12 years ago when Bimini Bay was in the conception stage. The fact that the two are partnering now after Genting has invested $500 million to purchase real estate in Miami, is just a matter of timing, Bethel said. Genting and other US-based gaming companies are pushing the Florida Legislature to allow casino gambling outside of tribal land and parimutuel facilities.

“Genting Group is looking to grow its business in the Americas,” Bethel said. “They’re one of few gaming entities that are focused on growth and expansion. There is no relation to what we’re doing in Bimini and Miami.”

But unlike the U.S., where Genting has stumbled in Florida and New York getting the necessary government approvals, the Bahamian government has already approved this project.

“This is an important venture not only for RAV Bahamas and Genting Malaysia but also for the island of Bimini,” Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, prime minister of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, said in statement. “It provides further stability for the local economy in a destination that already enjoys a 79 percent repeat visitor return.”

Source: Miami Herald
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Economy Investment Real Estate

Genting cools interest in buying Miami-Dade School District property

The cash-strapped Miami-Dade School District has several options to consider from developers interested in buying its prime downtown real estate, but interest has cooled from its biggest suitor — the Genting Group.

In December, the Malaysian investors told the School Board they were interested in buying the district’s downtown property, which spans more than 10 acres of parking lots and office buildings on eight separate parcels.

But on Monday, the group said it is pursuing scaled-back plans for a luxury development — for now without a casino — on The Miami Herald’s bayfront property, which Genting purchased last year from the newspaper’s parent company.

“Though we initially indicated interest in the School Board properties, we have since decided to move forward developing Resorts World Miami on the nearby Miami Herald site, independent of the school bpard land,” said Jessica Hoppe, vice president and general counsel for Resorts World Miami.

Starting with its purchase of The Miami Herald property, the Genting Group has invested about $500 million in real estate in the Omni area. The group is moving ahead with a luxury complex on the bay after its bid to build the world’s largest casino faded in February in the Florida Legislature.

“We understand Genting’s decision, and the matter remains under the cone of silence,” John Schuster, spokesman for the school district, said in an email.

Last fall, the district issued a request for letters of interest in the property, the first step in selling or developing it, and got some proposals.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has not recommended any option to board members, but released the letters in a Feb. 9 memo to the board for “informational purposes.”

“We have a structured process if we were to proceed,” said Jaime Torrens, the district’s chief facilities officer. “There’s no pricing at this point. It’s very conceptual.”

Among the proposals:

–One from 1550 The Chelsea to buy the district’s lot at 1535 NE Second Ave. The developers are working on a mixed-use tower near the Omni hotel. It owns the Brickell Flatiron, which includes the bar Baru, and has plans for a park and to build Park Lane Towers in a vacant area.

“We’re the natural purchasers,” said managing member Mallory Kauderer. “I’ll pay a good price because we’re on Biscayne Boulevard.”

–An offer to buy one of the district’s parcels, 1610 NE First Ct., for $908,440 in cash from Prince Albert, a company of the Kluger family, who own other properties in the area.

–A pitch to market and sell the district’s eight parcels separately by Ryan Shaw with Marcus & Millichap, a national real estate brokerage. In his letter, Shaw estimated the value of each of the district’s properties for a total of more than $40.7 million.

“It would be in the School Board’s best interest to bring these properties to market separately,” Shaw said. “They’re sitting on equity that could be better served in the school district by building more facilities more centrally located and getting out of downtown.”

–A conceptual plan from Town Square Neighborhood Development, a nonprofit focused on developing the area around the Adrienne Arsht Center. The group has no funds, but has a wish list to make over the performing arts area.

Any timeline to sell the district’s property would likely take at least a year, given the deal’s complexity and need to find a place for the district to relocate its headquarters, Torrens said. Atsthe nerve center of the fourth largest school district in the country, the district oversees more than 300 schools, 30,000-plus employees and nearly 350,000 students.

Torrens said the district could weigh other alternatives, too. “It isn’t just sell. There are different types of leases or developments,” he said.

Genting cools interest in buying Miami-Dade School District property
By Laura Isensee, Miami Herald