Philippine casino operator Waterfront Philippines Inc, also known as WPI, said in a Tuesday filing that it expected a case it brought against the country’s gaming regulator over the latter’s alleged failure to process its 2015 application to build a new casino in Manila, “to reach the Supreme Court”.
The firm added: “We cannot make any comments as the matter is sub-judice. When the matter is finally decided by the Supreme Court, the appropriate disclosures will be made.”
The Philippines-listed company had announced a decade ago plans for a casino resort at Entertainment City. The scheme was dubbed Grand Waterfront Hotel and Casino, and included a plan for a hotel with 2,500 rooms. Waterfront Philippines first filed a petition for a writ of “mandamus” – a form of judicial remedy – in March 2015. Waterfront Philippines has said it had submitted all required paperwork to the country’s regulator – the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, a body also known as Pagcor – but that it had been ignoring the firm’s application.
Last year the Court of Appeals had affirmed a August 2017 ruling of Manila Regional Trial Court, which had said Pagcor must act on Waterfront Philippines’ application for a licence. Last month, in a two-page resolution dated April 22, the appellate court upheld its earlier ruling, saying the arguments raised by Pagcor in its second appeal had already been considered in the earlier decision.
Waterfront Philippines currently runs two casino hotel properties in the holiday destination of Cebu, according to its 2018 annual report filed on Thursday.
They are: the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino, said to include more than 500 guest rooms; and the Waterfront Mactan Island Hotel and Casino, which currently has 164 guest rooms. The firm’s casino hotel properties each feature gaming facilities under the “Casino Filipino” brand, controlled by Pagcor.
Waterfront Philippines was responding in its Tuesday filing to an enquiry from the Philippine Stock Exchange regarding a report the same day in the Philippine Star newspaper with the headline “Gatchalian’s casino plan gets revived, thanks to judicial intervention”.
The article had stated, referring to WPI and to a proposal for Entertainment City, a zone in Manila earmarked by the Philippine government for large-scale commercial casino resorts: “The plan of hotel magnate William Gatchalian to build a casino next to Solaire and Okada has been revived, thanks to judicial intervention.”
That was a reference latterly to Solaire Resort and Casino, run by Bloomberry Resorts Corp; and Okada Manila, a property promoted by Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc – a firm controlled by Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp.
Waterfront Philippines added in its Tuesday filing, giving background information on the topic: “During the time of the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, WPI had filed an application for such with Pagcor, and WPI paid the application fee and submitted all requirements.”
Tuesday’s filing added: “However, Pagcor did not make any action on the matter. Even during the administration of President [Benigno] Aquino, no action was also made, and no communication was even given by Pagcor, prompting the filing of the case.”
Waterfront Philippines further stated: “Pagcor did not file its appeal with the regional trial court on time, prompting the case to be elevated to the Court of Appeals… The Court of Appeals has upheld the regional trial court decision.
There is still no finality to the case, as it is expected to reach the Supreme Court.”
The current leadership of Pagcor was not in post at the time of Waterfront Philippines’ 2015 application.
It emerged in early 2018 that from January that year the country’s current leader President Rodrigo Duterte had imposed a moratorium on new casinos in the country. But several new projects in the pipeline – including Bloomberry Resorts’ Quezon City scheme – were said to have pre-dated the ban in terms of permission having been granted in principle by Pagcor.
Waterfront Philippines said in its 2018 annual report that group profit had fallen by 81 percent – to just under PHP42.02 million (US$810,400) for the 12 months to December 31 – from nearly PHP217.94 million a year earlier.
Operating revenue for the latest reporting period was down nearly 12 percent, at just under PHP1.81 billion, compared to PHP2.06 billion a year earlier.
Casino and hotel operations at Manila Pavilion Hotel and Casino – also managed by Waterfront Philippines – were halted in March last year, as a fire engulfed the 22-storey, 509-room property located in the heart of Manila’s tourist district. According to its website, the property is now under renovation.
The firm said receivables increased by nearly 146 percent, from PHP228.36 million in 2017, to PHP561.48 million in 2018.
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