|Despite casino gambling being illegal for Muslims and Malaysians, Malaysia plays host to what Proprietor Lim Goh-tong claims to be the world's largest hotel. Goh-tong, a Chinese immigrant, has parlayed a hillside in the Malaysian jungle into the engine room behind a billion-dollar empire. |
Even Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad turned up to help Lim celebrate the opening of the first 3,300-room stage of what is claimed to be the world's biggest hotel, the First World.
This, despite the fact that the premier is barred from setting foot in the casino. A prominent sign on a door in one of five hotels warns that Malaysian Muslims will be guilty of an offense under state religious laws if they step inside: it's the Casino de Genting. The prime minister, the king and 60% of Malaysians are Muslims, but more than a quarter of the 23 million population are Chinese, who traditionally are among the world’s most enthusiastic gamblers. For them, Malaysia's only casino is a beacon.
Additions to the Genting Highlands resort include indoor and outdoor 'theme parks,' the latest of which is the First World Plaza offering a miniature Europe complete with Eiffel Tower and life-sized model gondoliers taking tourists around a man-made Venetian canal. Lim's company, Genting Bhd last year reported pre-tax profits of $271 million and is a key blue chip on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange.