Highlands Resort Malaysia - the original Gentings For those who enjoy the old-fashioned allure of a bricks and mortar casino, the name Genting will be immediately familiar. The Malaysia-based company operates around 40 different casinos in the UK alone – more than any other company. When gaming fans visit a Genting casino, they know exactly what to expect. And the quick and easy membership process means that joining one casino means the gamer has joined them all.

 

Some might argue that while the uniformity of the service offering might represent a great business model, it does mean that the experience can become a little routine. In other words, when you’ve visited one, you’ve visited them all. That’s true to an extent. However, what many people fail to realize is that the Genting model started from one man making his impossible dream a reality. Let’s take a look at the remarkable story of Highlands Resort Malaysia.

 

A man with a dream

 

In 1964, industrialist and entrepreneur Lim Goh Tong was on a business trip in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands. He was immediately taken with the fresh, mountain air and decided that his home city of Kuala Lumpur needed something similar. Only he wanted to create more than just a hotel. He envisaged a casino resort the like of which Malaysia had never seen.

 

Now today, large scale developments are commonplace. Likewise, casinos are popping up in both the physical and virtual worlds every day, and we can visit one in a major city or play live table games in cyberspace whenever we like. Despite all this, Lim Goh Tong’s idea still sounds ambitious. Now consider the context of 1960s Malaysia. There wasn’t a casino in the entire country, and as for a mountain – well, the closest one to Kuala Lumpur was around 200KM away, covered in dense forest and completely devoid of basic essentials like a water or electricity supply.

 

The dream becomes a reality

 

These, however, were simply obstacles that had to be negotiated, and that is exactly what the Genting pioneer did. Over six years, he cleared around 10,000 acres of forest, and created an entire infrastructure of roads and utilities to make his dream of a mountain resort into a reality. In 1971, the Malaysian Government granted Genting Resort the country’s first casino license. 38 years later, they have yet to issue a second one, so Genting remains a unique destination on the Malaysia tourist trail.

 

Despite its monopoly when it comes to Malaysia’s land-based gambling market, the resort has not stood still. While the Genting name has spread across the globe, Lim Goh Tong’s mountain getaway has moved with the times, too. Today, visitors can arrive in style by cable car, and when they get there, there’s plenty to do, even for those who are not keen gamblers. Resorts World Genting, as it is now known, has become a family destination, offering shops, fine dining and even supervised children’s entertainment. That’s ideal for parents who need something for the youngsters to do in safety while they check out the adult playground inside!

Rags to Riches The history of gambling, in Las Vegas and elsewhere, is awash with ‘rags to riches’ and, indeed, ‘riches to rags’ stories, but none is quite as dramatic, on both counts, as the story of the gambler popularly known as Archie Karas. Born Anargyros Karabourniotis in Kefalonia, Karas had already won, and lost, millions of dollars playing high-stakes poker in Los Angeles before arriving in Las Vegas with a mere $50 to his name. Having secured a loan of $10,000 from an associate – whom he repaid, double, with 24 hours – Karas embarked upon the longest documented winning streak in gambling his story. Between 1992 and 1995, he played high-stakes poker against some of the best players in the world, including Stu Ungar and Chip Reese, and amassed $40 million. However, when his fortunes took a turn for the worse, they did so catastrophically; in the space of two months, he lost the whole £40 million playing baccarat and craps for astronomically high stakes, as was his custom. Looks like he should’ve stuck to poker, or in this, the internet age, pokieslistings.com to keep his baalnce balance moving in the right direction.

Of course, plenty of other people have gone from poverty to wealth, and vice versa, as the result of gambling activities of one form or another. Historically, Charles De Ville Wells, later dubbed ‘Monte Carlo’ Wells, was one of the men who broke the bank at Monte Carlo. In 1891, using what he described as an ‘infallible system’, Wells turned $4,000 into $1 million, or the equivalent of about $28 million by modern standards.

Much more recently, in 2005, 92-year-old World War II veteran Elmer Sherwin achieved what he called his ‘life’s dream’ when winning the progressive jackpot on a Megabucks slot machine for the second time. Sherwin won his first Megabucks jackpot, $4.6 million, at the Mirage, on the Las Vegas Strip, in 1989 and thereafter actively pursued winning it again. His persistence finally paid off when, sixteen years later, at the Cannery Casino in North Las Vegas, he lined up the ‘Megabucks’ symbols again and won $21.1 million for his $3 stake. There have been some massive Megabucks slots wins over the years, so Elmer has joined an elite group.

On the darker side, former Fry’s Electronics’ executive Ausaf Umar ‘Omar’ Siddiqui reportedly spent $162 million – $65 million of which he defrauded from his employer – in Las Vegas in a three-year period from 2005 onwards. Siddiqui was subsequently charged with money laundering and wire fraud. In a similar vein, in what was later described as a ‘year-long gambling binge’, Chinese businessman and celebrated high-roller Terry Watanabe lost nearly $127 million, mainly playing blackjack, badly, at Caesars Palace and the Rio in Las Vegas in 2007.