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$4 billion Resorts World Vegas project crosses first hurdle; state board recommends license

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. - A Malaysian conglomerate that hopes to build a $4 billion Asian-themed resort at the site of a long-stalled hotel construction project on the Las Vegas Strip crossed a major regulatory hurdle Wednesday.

Officials with the Nevada Gaming Control Board recommended a gaming license for Genting Berhad, the investment arm of Genting Group. The matter is scheduled for a second round of scrutiny May 22 before the Nevada Gaming Commission.

Officials with Genting, which operates casinos in the Asia, the United Kingdom, the Bahamas and New York, told regulators they plan to break ground this year on Resorts World Las Vegas. The project would incorporate 80 per cent to 85 per cent of the buildings in the partially built Echelon project and directly create about 8,500 jobs.

The initial phase is expected to include 3,000 hotel rooms, a large casino, a 4,000-seat theatre with a rotating schedule of shows and a lush garden attraction. Company officials said they're also considering adding a 20th Century Fox theme park similar to one planned at a Genting property in Malaysia.

The project could breathe new life into the tired north end of the tourist corridor where several projects stalled during the recession. It comes as developers finish work on the SLS Las Vegas, a 1,600-room resort that's rising from the site of the shuttered Sahara hotel-casino and is scheduled to be open to the public over Labor Day weekend.

Genting executives said their company, Southeast Asia's largest casino operator, is ideally positioned to capitalize on a growing number of foreign tourists flocking to the Strip. A design aimed at making Asian customers feel at home calls for a shopping centre that resembles a Chinese village and perhaps even a panda attraction, although company officials said Wednesday that scoring the animals is complicated.

Genting bought the property last year from Boyd Gaming at a cost of $350 million. Boyd had started building a $4.8 billion, six-hotel complex on the site of the former Stardust casino when the recession hit.

The Echelon's steel-and-concrete skeleton has stood dormant since 2008.

Elected officials in Nevada cheered last spring when the Resorts World project was announced. Las Vegas is trying to bolster its share of international tourists, who tend to stay longer and spend more than visitors closer to home.

Genting executives told regulators Wednesday that they were committed to increasing the city's tourism numbers rather than cannibalizing the competition, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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