Clare Nuttall in Astana -
Malaysia's Alm Sdn Bdh Group is planning to invest over $6bn into infrastructure and tourist facilities at Kapchagai, one of Kazakhstan's two designated gambling zones, including construction of an international airport, claim Kazakh officials.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Alm said it is interested in building an international airport in Kapchagai, as part of plans to turn the lakeside town into a major tourist destination that has been dubbed "KazVegas".
The Malaysian company will start work on a feasibility study on the project - which sits close to Kazakhstan's largest city Almaty - in the near future. The airport is expected to cost around $5.8bn to build. Should it go ahead, the construction of the airport is expected to take around five years to complete in three phases. Alm is also planning to rebuild the 104km road between Almaty and Kapchagai, an undertaking expected to cost around $450m, Tengrinews reports.
In 2007, Astana introduced new legislation intended to curb the booming gambling industry in Kazakhstan by restricting the industry to just two locations - Kapchagai and Schuchinsk in the north of the country. When the ban came into force on January 1, 2007, there were over 2,000 gambling halls in the country.
Kapchagai, or "Las Vegas on the steppe" to use another of the town's nicknames, has seen substantial investment in the last few years. In addition to local casino owners who have set up in the town, international investors including Mark Advent's Eighth Wonder have expressed an interest in developing the resort.
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