The Philippines will have a five-year pause on issuing further casino licences for the capital Manila, amid industry concerns of oversupply, said Andrea Domingo, the head of the country’s gaming regulator.
Her comments – reported by media outlets – came on Tuesday during the first day of the ASEAN Gaming Summit in Manila.
Ms Domingo, the head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), was quoted by several outlets saying the body was “protecting” the interests of existing investors, “who have taken the risks earlier”.
It was also reported by the Nikkei Asia Review that the four licensees from Manila’s Entertainment City – a zone for private-sector, large-scale casino resorts – had filed what it referred to as a “position paper” last month calling for the moratorium on new permits in Manila.
One of the reported signatories to the position paper, Bloomberry Resorts Corp, has said it is planning a new casino at Quezon City, north of the capital, under its existing licence.
The Nikkei Asia Review reported Ms Domingo as saying Pagcor expects nationwide gross gaming revenue (GGR) of PHP155 billion (US$3.08 billion) to PHP160 billion this year, a 30 percent increase on the official target the body had set for 2016. In the end, 2016 market GGR performance had exceeded the official forecast, at reportedly PHP149 billion. That means the 2017 target was only 7 percent higher year-on-year than the actual 2016 tally.
In Manila’s Entertainment City zone, where minimum investments of US$1 billion have been mentioned by Pagcor as a key condition for a casino licence, Bloomberry Resorts was first to market with Solaire Resort and Casino, which opened in March 2013.
Melco Crown (Philippines) Resorts Corp, controlled by Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd, is the operator of City of Dreams Manila in Entertainment City. It had a December 2014 soft launch followed by an official launch in February 2015.
Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment’s Okada Manila resort, owned by Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp, started a preview period in December – including a portion of the gaming operation but not the hotel facilities – and is due to have an official opening this year.
Westside City Resorts World, promoted by Philippine firm Travellers International Hotel Group Inc, is currently scheduled to launch in 2021.
In 2009, Travellers International opened the first of the new generation of private-sector Manila gaming resorts, called Resorts World Genting at Newport City near Manila International Airport. For that project, the economic value is shared by Travellers International partners Alliance Global Group Inc and casino cruise ship operator Genting Hong Kong Ltd.
Despite the moratorium on more Manila licences, Pagcor is welcoming applications for other parts of the country with more modest capital expenditure, according to media accounts.
Reuters news agency reported Ms Domingo as saying on Tuesday that Pagcor had approved a US$500-million application from a Filipino company for a casino resort at Lapu-Lapu City on the island of Cebu. It further reported her saying a Hong Kong-based firm is applying for a licence to invest US$300 million in a casino venture on the adjacent island of Mandaue.
A group of potential investors in a US$1.4-billion casino project slated for Cebu had dropped out because of “perceived political risks and other issues in the country,” said a letter filed with the Philippine Stock Exchange on March 15.
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"Our rolling chip business [at Tigre de Cristal casino, in the Russian Far East], targeting Asian customers, has achieved substantial growth as we continue to address the underserved Northeast Asian market"
Lawrence Ho Yau Lung
Chairman of gaming investor Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd