Malaysia leader Anwar says nation has no need for another casino

Forest City in Iskandar Puteri, Malaysia. (Photo: Aparna Nori/Bloomberg)
Forest City in Iskandar Puteri, Malaysia. (Photo: Aparna Nori/Bloomberg)

By Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) — Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said his government won’t consider approving another casino in the Southeast Asian nation.

“Affirmative no,” Anwar told Bloomberg TV’s Haslinda Amin at the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday, when asked if his administration would allow a second casino in Malaysia.

“There’s no necessity for Malaysia to venture into the casino business,” Anwar said. “We are focusing on digital transformation, energy transition, AI, and we believe that this is adequate to push the country forward.”

Bloomberg News reported last month that Malaysia was in early discussions with tycoons on opening a casino in Forest City, a property development in Johor state near neighbouring Singapore. The report, which cited people familiar with the matter, said Anwar discussed the idea with Berjaya Corp. founder Vincent Tan and Genting Group’s Lim Kok Thay. King Ibrahim Iskandar was also represented, the people told Bloomberg.

Anwar said afterward there were no plans to issue a casino license in Forest City, and denounced the report as a “lie.” Tan and Lim denied participating in such a meeting.

Anwar said Tuesday that he responded strongly to the report because it was disrespectful to the king, but added that “nobody was arrested” and it’s time to “move on.”

Malaysian authorities have charged several people for making seditious remarks on social media and a private WhatsApp group in relation to the casino report.

Malaysia has granted only one casino license, which was given to Genting in 1969. It contributed as much as 5 billion ringgit ($1.1 billion) annually to the government’s revenue before the pandemic, according to a report by UOB-Kay Hian Holdings Ltd., a Singapore-based brokerage.

Casinos are controversial in Muslim-majority Malaysia. After Bloomberg’s report was published, Johor Chief Minister Onn Hafiz Ghazi said that no casinos will be opened or allowed to operate in the state.

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