Philippines to ignite industry

Operators are betting big on Asia, but with a relatively limited number of gaming developments in the region, Manila Bay is set to become an international casino hotspot. Bloomberry Resorts announced at an October press event that its Solaire Casino Resort is on track to launch by March 2013.
Pagcor, the Philippine state-run gaming body, will see its Entertainment City come to life over the next five years. The agency has issued four operating licenses to Bloomberry Resorts; a joint venture between Alliance Group and Genting; a joint venture between property magnate Andrew Tan and Japanese ‘pachinko king’ Kazuo Okada; and a joint venture between Belle Corp and Melco Crown.
Bradley Stone, President of Global Gaming Assets Management, which will manage the Solaire property, explained that the casino to set to compete with top resorts in Macau and Las Vegas. The company has poached top casino executives, including Michael French of City of Dreams as COO, Xingyu Chen of Wynn Resorts as CFO and Gregory Dauenhauer of Marina Bay Sands as Vice President of IT.
Sitting at the heart of Manila’s Entertainment City, Solaire will be the catalyst that brings the project to life. The $1.2 billion property will launch a five-star hotel with 500 rooms, suites and villas, and 18,500-sq-mt of gaming space featuring 1,200 slots and 300 tables. The venue will occupy around half the 16-hectres allocated to Bloomberry within the district’s total 120-hectre area.
“Our goal is simply to raise the bar for entertainment offerings in Manila as it is our ambitious vision to be the ultimate gaming resort in the country,” said French.
In an attempt to copy the success of the VIP market in Macau, around three-quarters of the casino will be dedicated to the mass market, whilst the remaining quarter will be setup exclusively for VIPs. To lure high-rollers from around Asia, Stone said the resort will provide private jets and helicopters to fly in players.
“This is a master-planned building, sensitive to the market segments we are going after,” commented Stone, “The general public wants good parking that’s accessible to the casino floor, have the right slot product, ticket in, ticket out, cash out. With the VIP market, it’s important to build relationships.”
“The ante for VIP service is about personalisation,” added Adrian Ort, who will head up the property’s non-gaming amenities, “Depending on the level of the VIP, there is a helipad and a host who speaks the guest’s language. If the VIPs fly on their ticket, we fetch them a limousine. We take care of what they like to have.”
The Philippine government lowered tax rates to attract foreign investment into the project and enables junkets and VIPs to receive higher commissions. In addition, the country benefits from favourable macroeconomic fundamentals characterised by low inflation, improved credit rating, strong currency and an emerging middle-class.
“Where gaming is concerned, there is a void that needs to be filled for the huge world gaming market, particularly by offering an alternative for the large and growing Southeast Asian market,” commented Enrique Razon, Bloomberry Chairman & President, “Many foreigners have been buying into Bloomberg. There’s a confidence from the foreign market in this project and in the country.”
The Tiger Resorts project, developed by the Tan and Okada group, will occupy 40-hectres of the district. With a $2 billion investment, the project will integrate gaming, commercial and residential operations. Dubbed ‘Manila Bay Resorts’, construction is almost a year in development and slated to open in 2014.
Following the success of Resorts World Manila, Genting Group of Hong Kong along with Alliance Group, will invest $1.2 billion into the district over the next three years to develop Resorts World Bayshore. Site development will begin this year and see the project rise on a 30-hectre area along Roxas Boulevard.
Speaking at the Philippine Business Conference & Expo in October, David Chua, President of Genting Hong Kong, said he is “totally convinced” that “the Philippines is the right place, the Filipinos are the right people and now is the right time” to invest.
Belle Corp., owned by Filipino retail guru and the country’s richest man Henry Sy, together with Melco Crown, will pour a further $1 billion into the district. The group has been allocated 10-hectres and is due to start construction next year.
According to Pagcor’s estimates, planned projects under the four gaming licenses would attract over a million new tourists to the capital city every year, generate up to 40,000 direct and 150,000 indirect jobs and revenue of up to $11 billion after 5 years. If that happens, Manila would overtake Las Vegas in terms of gambling revenue.