Malaysian gaming giant Genting on Wednesday opened four premium hotels at a 4.4-billion-dollar resort in Singapore in preparation for the launch of a casino and a Universal Studios theme park.

Company executives cut a ribbon to inaugurate the hotels at the Resorts World Sentosa complex at 8:18 am (0018 GMT), an auspicious time whose Cantonese pronunciation sounds like "to prosper" in the language.

Festive Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel Singapore, Crockfords Tower and Hotel Michael together offer 1,350 rooms and 10 restaurants.

They are located on the hilly islet of Sentosa, linked by a causeway to the southern tip of Singapore.

Genting Group chairman Lim Kok Thay said his company was still working with Singapore authorities on finalising the casino licence and gave no date for the start of gambling operations.

"As far as the casino licence is concerned, we are still working closely with the authorities through their checks and inspections," Lim told reporters after the opening ceremonies for the hotels.

"So in other words, we are still going through the motions. We are waiting for the gaming licence to be issued."

High-rollers can stay at the opulent Crockfords Tower, which boasts 120 invitation-only suites with 24-hour personal butler services, a large "magic mirror" that doubles up as a television screen, and a personal steam room.

Lim said a decision by Universal Studios to build its biggest theme park in Asia in South Korea was unlikely to negatively affect the US film giant's attraction in Singapore, which is part of the Sentosa casino complex.

Universal on Tuesday signed a deal with South Korean partners to build its largest theme park in Asia at a cost of around three trillion won (2.67 billion dollars).

Its Singapore park is expected to open by March.

"It's good for the industry overall," Lim said of the South Korean project. "So if you visit Korea, you would get curious about the park here in Singapore."

A marine life park, a maritime museum, a spa and two more hotels will be launched at Resorts World Sentosa after 2010.

Marina Bay Sands, another Singapore casino resort, is scheduled to open in April following construction delays. It is being built by US-based Las Vegas Sands.

Singapore gave the go ahead for casino gambling in 2005, setting off a flurry of construction that went ahead despite last year's recession.

The government hopes the casinos will boost the country's tourism appeal and draw more visitors to the small island-republic, which relies mainly on man-made attractions to entice tourists.

The number of tourists visiting Singapore rose in November after slumping during the recession, but overall 2009 arrivals are expected to fall to 9.5 million from 10.1 million in 2008.

Resorts World Sentosa chief executive Tan Hee Teck said he was confident the resort will live up to its promise of drawing more tourists to Sentosa, a former British military outpost already packed with leisure attractions.

"We will literally transform the whole tourism industry here in Singapore," Tan told reporters