Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Landmarks Plans Indonesia's First Casinos in Bintan

Malaysia's Landmarks Bhd., backed by Asia's largest gambling company, hopes to build Indonesia's first legalized casinos in a $3.1 billion resort project to compete with Las Vegas Sands Corp. in Singapore.

The ``objective is to develop a new destination for Indonesia,'' Chief Operating Officer Lim Boon Soon said in an interview in Kuala Lumpur. The gaming element ``will accelerate the whole integrated development in Bintan,'' an island in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population.

The planned casinos in Bintan will compete with gaming resorts that Las Vegas Sands and Genting Bhd., Landmarks's biggest shareholder, are racing to build in Singapore, which is a 55-minute ferry ride away. The regulated gambling market in the Asia-Pacific region may expand 16 percent a year to $30.3 billion in 2011, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Landmarks aims to capture the spillover from Singapore, targeting about 3 million visitors a year to Bintan, eight times more than the 370,000 tourists now, Lim said.

Bintan, the largest island in the Riau archipelago of Indonesia in the South China Sea, is being developed into one of Asia's biggest holiday resorts by the governments of Indonesia and Singapore and a group of companies.

Resorts there include the Banyan Tree Bintan, Bintan Lagoon Resort and Club Med Ria. Occupancy rates for resorts in Bintan climbed to 61.4 percent last year from 54.9 percent in 2006, according to the Web site of Bintan Resorts International Pte, the marketing consultant for resorts in Bintan. There are more than 1,300 hotel rooms in the island, it said.

Part of the land for Landmarks's project has been designated for activities such as gaming and medical tourism to help boost the development potential of Treasure Bay, it said in January. The statement didn't mention casinos. Treasure Bay will have other facilities apart from casinos, Lim said. The floor area for gambling will be ``minimal,'' he said.

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