Genting’s Lim Kok Thay will likely toast the new year with a half-full glass of champagne because there is as much to cheer about as there were setbacks, Daniel Cheng writes as the world’s largest gaming operator stands on cloud nigh.

I have never seen the Milky Way. Singapore has the most light-polluted skies in the world, and it is not uncommon for many moons to pass with nary a star visible in the heavens. When I looked out my window the other night and glanced up, I saw not one, not two, but seven stars adorning the sky. 

Sirius was twinkling. Betelgeuse pierced the darkness. Capella and Aldebaran shimmered dimly, along with a few others I couldn’t identify. I would’ve counted my lucky stars except I don’t believe in luck, though I must say there are many things in life I can be grateful for.

Unlike me, I had a former employer who thrives on luck and was said to have a “golden touch” in his business. He plied his trade in games of fortune, and kismet smiled more often on him than on his customers. Lim Kok Thay is an ardent believer in feng shui, an ancient Chinese traditional practice of geomancy. However, the positive energy of the earth’s pattern has eluded the Genting magnate as of late. 

Lim will be more than relieved to see the back of two forgettable years bookended by the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 did not just strike him; it had besieged the entire travel and hospitality sector. But the Malaysian tycoon’s business was also kicked viciously in the ribs when it was down. 

The first “ship” he built with his own hands, Star Cruises, met a watery grave. To add insult to injury, what was to be his flagship vessel, the Global Dream, has been acquired by Disney, the same company that had denied him a Fox theme park in Malaysia. The Mickey Mouse company was also the main perpetrator that blocked Genting from getting a commercial casino licence in its home state of Florida.

Lim hit a wall in Japan when Genting followed its peers in deserting Osaka for Yokohama, only for the port city to call off its casino plans. At the end of November, he was left empty-handed after a vain attempt to wrestle a Macau casino licence from the incumbent concessionaires. It was the second time that Genting had been denied in Macau. 

The word “Genting” was homophonically translated as “cloud summit” in Mandarin, but the company hasn’t quite been on cloud nine lately and instead drew a closer parallel to the original Malay meaning of the word—on the precipice. The last time Genting prevailed in a competitive casino licence bid was 12 years ago, in the summer of 2010.

It then overcame two local companies, Penn National and Hard Rock International, to clinch a state video lottery licence at the Aqueduct racetrack in New York. You will have to go back a further four years, when it last won another contest for the Sentosa integrated resort project in 2006.

Understandably, entering his 70s hasn’t been exactly the “golden” years thus far for the septuagenarian Lim, at least not in the material sense for his company. It has to be said, though, that his personal wealth is more than most of us can have in a thousand lifetimes, so not many are about to commiserate with his recent barren run anytime soon. 

With more money than he can spend, the man probably draws greater assuagement from other non-material beatitudes than financial ambition. One surely must be the recent matrimony of his firstborn son and the hopeful anticipation to become a grandparent in the not-too-distant future.

It might be to him a sign that it’s perhaps nigh to call time and pass the torch to the next generation. After all, he is already more than a decade late on the desideratum to retire at 60.

The ends of the strings are long-worn and fraying at the edges. They lay coiled carelessly around the coin, to which the other ends of the two strings are tied via pinholes on opposite sides of the disc. The obverse of the coin faces up and bears the imagery of a cumulonimbus cloud, the hidden side depicts a bolt of lightning.

Try as he might, the thaumatrope had revealed to Lim a persistent vision of thunderstorms every time he twirled the strings over the last couple of years. A fresh pair of hands could turn the order of the two coin faces and reverse the fortunes of the company—from the cloud assailed by lightning, to casting thunderbolts from the cloud.

The Malaysian billionaire will likely toast the new year with a half-full glass of champagne because there is as much to cheer about as there were setbacks. Genting finally has an operating address on Las Vegas Boulevard, almost a decade after buying the Echelon plot from Boyd Gaming. Lim is sailing again after reincarnating a new cruise business in Singapore. 

The Resorts World properties in Malaysia and Singapore are swinging back to health now that COVID-19 is well and truly endemic in the two countries. The Big Apple beckons, where Genting is an “incumbent” and favourite to get one of the three commercial casino licences in New York City. Queens is not quite Manhattan, but a new NYC casino licence in 2023 will be a more than fitting baton for the Lim family’s third generation to take over the business empire.