Preliminary data for April indicate a year-on-year surge in aggregate casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) from the two casinos currently operational in Entertainment City, Manila, a zone earmarked for private-sector gaming investment in the Philippines. So says a report from brokerage Maybank ATR Kim Eng Securities Inc, issued on Wednesday.
“In April we are seeing indications of a dramatic improvement in growth for Entertainment City casinos with [aggregate] GGR surging approximately 69 percent year-on-year,” said the document from analyst Rommel Rodrigo, citing proprietary research and data from the local regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp – also known as Pagcor.
The brokerage noted that in the first quarter, GGR in Entertainment City casinos rose only 6.6 percent year-on-year, to PHP18.07 billion (US$389.6 million), compared to PHP16.95 billion in the year-prior period.
The two operational casinos in Entertainment City are Solaire Resort and Casino, from Bloomberry Resorts Corp, which opened in March 2013; and City of Dreams Manila (pictured), operated by a unit of Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd, which opened officially in February 2015, following a December 2014 soft opening.
Maybank suggested much of the year-on-year improvement in GGR for April this year, had been contributed by City of Dreams Manila. In April last year the resort had not ramped up its business, noted the brokerage.
The surge in April GGR for Entertainment City as suggested by Maybank, came before Macau’s ban – announced on May 6 and effective from May 9 – on the use of telephones at VIP tables.
A number of investment analysts have suggested that Macau’s ban might have driven some gambling business offshore, to places including Manila. They point out that telephones at tableside can be used to facilitate so-called “proxy betting”, allowing people not physically present in the casino to make bets.
Investment bank Morgan Stanley had said in a Wednesday report into global trends in casino VIP gambling revenues: “We expect the ban on phone betting in Macau to benefit the Philippines VIP market.”
Brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd said in a May 9 note that the ban on proxy betting in Macau was leading some junkets to promote their proxy operations in the Philippines – where such activities are permitted – as an alternative to Macau.
Morgan Stanley had stated in a March 14 note: “Proxy betting has been growing rapidly in Manila, [something] which is supported by Pagcor.”
Maybank pointed out however in its Wednesday note, that local players had contributed to improved GGR nationally in the Philippines in the first quarter.
“Entertainment City casinos contributed 48 percent of Philippine GGR in first quarter 2016, down from 55 percent a year earlier,” said Maybank.
“Notable was the faster [GGR] growth of smaller casinos in Clark, Pampanga (+137.9 percent to PHP5.1 billion), and electronic gaming (+26.1 percent, to PHP6.0 billion),” stated the brokerage.
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President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China