A plan for a casino resort on the central Philippine island of Boracay will move forward, said the head of that country’s gaming regulator. That would be despite the central government’s possible shutdown of tourism to the island for as much as 12 months for an environmental clean up.
Macau-based casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd announced in December a US$500-million investment in partnership with Philippines-based Leisure and Resorts World Corp, a company that has several interests in the land-based and online gambling sectors in that country.
Andrea Domingo, head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), confirmed that the body had already approved the casino licence for the planned development.
“We are signing the contract for their provisional licence before the end of the month,” Ms Domingo told local media outlet GMA News.
The official also confirmed that the companies had submitted their request for licence before a new nationwide pause on issuing further casino permits. “They met all the requirements before the President announced the moratorium,” she reportedly said.
The head of the regulator noted also that the mooted shutdown of Boracay would be for only a year, whereas it would take three years to build the casino resort.
Ms Domingo said the companies would still pursue the project despite the impending closure of Boracay. “They have to build [the proposed casino resort]. Opening is at least after three years,” she told GMA News.
In a filing on Monday, Leisure and Resorts World Corp said one of its subsidiaries has already acquired a plot of land with approximately 23 hectares (56.8 acres) in the Barangay Manoc-Manoc area of Boracay.
“It is expected that Pagcor will issue a provisional licence to Galaxy Entertainment Group before the end of this month,” said Leisure and Resorts World Corp in the filing to the Philippine Stock Exchange. “Upon the issuance of the said licence through the partnership … an integrated resort will be constructed in the said property,” it added.
Three departments of the Philippine government recommended last week the closure of Boracay so that the island can be rehabilitated. The recommendation was issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Department of the Interior and Local Government; and Department of Tourism.
“For public health, public interest, and general welfare, I recommend to the President the closure of Boracay island as tourist destination for a maximum of one year effective one month after the declaration,” Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said in a statement on Thursday.
Mr Cimatu said the plan was to ensure Boracay was sustainable as a prime tourism destination.
(Updated at 4.47pm, March 19)
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"The casinos have to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The decision [to suspend casino operations] is up to the government. As of now, we don’t have any plan to change the existing regulations"
Lei Wai Nong
Macau Secretary for Economy and Finance