Miami Herald bets on Asian gambling giant

A dragon from the Far East has devoured the Miami Herald business section's soul. Last week, the newspaper's Business Monday pullout featured a five-page cover story and two side bars about the Genting Group, the Malaysian gambling conglomerate that wants to build a casino resort in downtown Miami.

The investors already plunked down $236 million in an all-cash deal to purchase the site for what the Herald promises will be a sure-fire fantastic redevelopment plan. The site: the Herald's waterfront headquarters and neighboring properties that Genting purchased from the paper's owner, the McClatchy Company.

Headlines blared "From Malaysia to Miami: Genting Raises the Stakes" and described company chairman KT Lim as a "very humble guy." Reporter Elaine Walker proclaimed the sale as Lim's "latest step to extend the family-owned company from a significant Asian player to a global high roller" and noted his favorite pastime is going on cruises so he can casually snoop on passengers vacationing aboard the ships of Norwegian Cruise Lines, which is 50 percent owned by Genting. She also glossed over Genting's recent lackluster stock performance and accusations the company committed fraud in securing development rights to a racetrack casino in Queens, New York. The allegations were deemed unfounded by New York state gaming regulators.

And there was no mention of Genting's former ties to billionaire Stanley Ho Hung-sun, AKA the Hong Kong King of Gambling, who has been accused by international and U.S. law enforcement officials of laundering money for the viciously violent Chinese mob known as the Triads.

In 2007, after Singapore gaming officials raised a stink, Genting had to pull out of a partnership with the gambling tycoon to build a hotel casino in China's Macao region, one of the fastest-growing gambling spots in the world. The deal with Ho had threatened Genting's plans to build a casino resort in Singapore.

Last year, when Genting offered the State of New York $380 million to run the Queens racino, it was revealed one of the firm's subsidiaries operated a VIP gambling room partly owned by Ho's daughter. A Genting spokesman vehemently denied the connection.

If the Herald's fawning coverage weren't on newsprint, Riptide would swear we were reading pages out of a Genting press kit.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.