The Philippines should not issue any new casino licence over the next 18 months, said the chairman of the country’s gaming regulator.
Cristino Naguiat (pictured), who heads state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), said it would be unlikely for the regulator to issue new licences until country President Benigno Aquino steps down in mid-2016.
Mr Aquino was elected in 2010. The Philippine constitution states that the President can only serve one six-year term. During Mr Aquino’s tenure, no new casino licences have been issued.
“We only have one and half years left, so I think we should let the next administration decide,” Mr Naguiat told Philippine daily Inquirer in an interview published on Wednesday. “My personal feeling is we will not be issuing any new licences until the end of the President’s term,” he added.
Mr Naguiat’s comments came as the Philippine government is assessing a concept proposal for a casino resort from U.S.-based operator Caesars Entertainment Corp. Caesars – which wants to grow its footprint in Asia after failing to enter the Macau market – plans to invest more than US$1 billion in a casino resort near the Manila International Airport.
Pagcor had already said last month the regulator would wait for a “substantial completion” of Entertainment City before deciding on new licences.
“We have to look at the big picture and definitely this is a long-term strategy,” Mr Naguiat said in Wednesday’s interview.
The Philippines is currently developing a 120-hectare (297-acre) area of reclaimed land close to Manila – known as Entertainment City – into a casino cluster, meant to emulate the success of Macau’s Cotai district.
Each Entertainment City resort has a minimum price tag of US$1 billion. The first property there, Solaire Resort and Casino, opened last year and is owned by Bloomberry Resorts Corp. The second venue, City of Dreams Manila, is due to have a soft opening on Sunday – it is backed by the richest man in the Philippines, Henry Sy, and Macau-based gaming operator Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd.
Other licence holders are: Alliance Global Group Inc and Genting Hong Kong Ltd, which also manage the already-operational Resorts World Manila near the capital’s airport; and Universal Entertainment Corp, controlled by Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada.
A new report by Standard & Poor’s forecasts casino revenue in the Philippines for next year will grow faster than the country’s economy. “Gaming earnings in the Philippines should rise faster than GDP [gross domestic product] mainly due to new resort capacity and higher disposable incomes as remittances from overseas Filipino workers remain robust,” the ratings agency said.
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Daniel Boone Wayson
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