Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Genting Singapore In Cairo - Some Perspective Please

Genting Singapore said on Tuesday that one of its subsidiaries has been selected as the new operator of a casino in Egypt. The firm said Genting Casinos, an indirect wholly-owned unit of Genting UK, has entered into a casino concession agreement with Misr Hotels. Genting UK has been awarded the casino concession for The Nile Ritz Carlton Hotel in Cairo for an initial period of 10 years. It plans to open the new operation under the brand "Crockfords on the Nile".

The move is part of Genting's strategy to expand its casino resort network. It will also strengthen and develop Genting UK's position in the premium market through its key high-end London casino clubs, Crockfords, Colony and Maxims.

The Nile Hotel, located on the banks of the Nile and in the heart of the Egyptian capital of Cairo, will undergo a major refurbishment. The hotel is considered one of the iconic developments in Cairo which has contributed to the Egyptian travel industry since it first opened in 1958.

Renovation work is expected to be completed in early 2012. Genting said the Casino concession agreement is not expected to have any material impact on its earnings in the current financial year.

My Take: If my readers can remember, in September last year I went to Cairo and had a zen moment with my camel boy. Anyway, yes, I did visit the casino as I was just as surprised as anyone that there were casinos in Cairo.

There are about 25 casinos in Cairo already. Each casino has to be within an "approved hotel", usually only one floor or a section of one floor.

All casinos in Cairo are not open to Egyptians but only to tourists, and naturally those of Islamic faith are prohibited as well. Let me tell you that the actual number of people playing there were very few. You almost can have the table all to yourself, and I am not kidding.

Hence all the casinos have less than 10 tables and less than 20 slot machines. The actual impact of having one at Nile Ritz Carlton Hotel is that it will be glitzy, but let me assure you that at any one time you will find less than 20 people playing and you can probably only put in 20 tables max. Anymore tables will just be a waste.

One of the bigger casinos in Cairo is Inter-Casino at the Ramses Hilton Hotel. It has 18 tables and 42 slots. Another is Casino Royal at Movenpick Jolie Ville Resort (yes, Movenpick) with 16 table games and the biggest number of slot machines at 154. The other big one is Taba Hilton & Casino with 19 table games and 76 slot.

Hence people should not be overly excited with the Cairo project, not when there are already 25 operators, and all catering to tourists. This is like adding two gaming tables at Resorts World, seriously folks. The problem is not with Ritz Carlton or Genting, its the number of tourists that actually visit Cairo, and spread that out to over 25 casinos in the one city - that's the problem.

Yes, being with Nile Ritz Carlton is probably the grandest of the lot, and on the Nile some more. But, do you know how many 5-6 star hotels there are on the Nile already - Four Season Cairo Nile Plaza, Intercontinental City Stars, Sheraton, Sofitel, etc... Its just another one.

p/s photo: Fiona Xie

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