|The Miami HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune
Dec. 12, 2011--The Malaysian company pushing for a massive resort on the Miami waterfront said Monday it does not want to put the world's largest casino there, calling that idea a "myth."
A casino planned for the current Miami Herald site would be comparable to some of the biggest in the United States, a top executive for Genting Group told a gambling forum at Miami-Dade College. That's still a sizeable venture but not the gargantuan casino that critics have seized on in warning Genting's plan would overwhelm downtown Miami.
"That's simply false,'' Christian Goode, Genting's top Florida executive said when a fellow panelist talked of bringing the "largest casino on the planet" to Miami. "It's not even close to being the largest."
Goode's assertion comes more than a month after its project manager from a top Miami architectural firm outlined the components for a Genting casino that would make it the world's largest. Company representatives said Monday those well-publicized statements were wrong, but offered no explanation as to why they waited so long to correct them.
The company also has been pushing a bill that would allow Genting to build a casino larger than anything else in the gambling industry, since the legislation caps the casino floor at 10 percent of a resort's property. Genting has proposed a 10-million square foot, 5,200-room vacation destination on the Herald site and surrounding property called Resorts World Miami.
In an interview after his remarks at a day-long casino forum sponsored by the Beacon Council, Goode said Resorts World will likely have a casino with between 5,000 and 6,000 slot machines. That's considerably fewer than the 8,500 slot machines that a Genting architect told the Herald were being contemplated in the design of the property.
The architect, Sergio Bakas, a senior vice president of Miami's Arquitectonica and project manager for the Genting venture, said in an Oct. 26 interview that he thought Resorts World would have the largest casino in the industry, an assertion that wasn't refuted by other Genting representatives.
But on Monday, Arquitectonica's top Miami executive, Bernardo Fort-Brescia, said Bakas misspoke, using assumptions based on industry formulas for how large casinos normally are. While Bakas described an 800,000 square-foot casino, Goode and Bakas said the actual gambling space will take up far less -- about 300,000 square feet.
"He should not have said that,'' Fort-Brescia said of Bakas. "I apologize."
Bakas could not be reached for an interview Monday. A Genting spokesman said Bakas would not be made available for one.
The sudden pushback against the "world's largest casino" charge comes as Genting is under pressure to scale back its Miami plans.
Mike Eidson, chairman of the board of the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center, which sits across the street from the Herald site, said over the weekend that he could not think of any improvements to the surrounding roads that could make Genting's plans workable. A rival casino company, Las Vegas Sands, is touting its plan for a roughly 2,000-room casino in downtown Miami as a more workable option for the city.
And Genting's allies in the Legislature, the sponsors of the casino bill, have both said Genting's detailed plans for Resorts World Miami have proven a distraction by giving opponents a large target.
At the same time, supporters point to the project's large scale -- including an estimated development tab approaching $4 billion -- as a major boost for both the construction industry and the region's roughly 250,000 unemployed.
Malaysia-based Genting, southeast Asia's largest casino operator, paid $236 million in May for nearly 14 acres of bayfront land, currently home to The Miami Herald. Under the terms of the sales contract, the Herald can stay in its current location rent-free through May 2013.
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