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Philippines seen as next big thing in Asian gaming

MACAU – The Philippines is seen to be the next big thing in Asian gaming given its robust growth prospects and the surge in Chinese tourist arrivals, a top gaming industry analyst said.

During the annual Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia convention, Union Gaming managing director Grant Govertson said while Singapore,  South Korea,  and Vietnam are all playing their cards right, the Philippines could turn out to be the ace in the pack given its growth story.

“ I think the Philippines is probably one that comes to mind first simply because we are seeing a decent amount of growth in inbound Chinese volumes, but the real exciting part there is the local story, the local economy is doing so well, gross gaming revenues are getting better and better and it’s not entirely dependent on the Chinese, so that’s interesting,” Govertson said.

Govertson said  the Philippines enjoys a wide mix of nationalities that play in its casinos.

The Philippines is vying with Macau and Singapore to become Asia’s top gaming  destination  with the opening of the Pagcor Entertainment City, Manila’s version of a Las-Vegas like gaming strip along Manila Bay.

Three of the planned four large-scale gaming resorts in Entertainment City have already started operations.  These include ports magnate  Enrique Razon’s  Bloomberry Resorts Corp.,  City of Dreams Manila of Macau casino giant Melco Crown and tycoon Henry Sy’s Belle Corp., and Okada Manila of Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada.

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The Philippines presents an attractive alternative for the wealthy Chinese gamblers. Improving bilateral relations between China and the Philippines along with President Duterte’s efforts to ramp up infrastructure spending will increase the number of Chinese visitors.

The government has committed to spend about $8 trillion to ramp up spending on roads, airports, seaports and railways to attract more  investors and generate jobs.

Praveen Choudhary, managing director at Morgan Stanley, also thinks the  Philippines may be the next best bet for investors looking to put their money into casinos.

“I do agree the Philippines looks like the market to watch out for. I think the gambling appetite in Asia is still humongous, as long as you can build a casino,  integrated resort and offer good food and entertainment.  I think you can keep getting more and more out of it. I will not be surprised if I hear more success in the future,” Choudhary said.

Choudhary noted Philippine casinos do not rely too heavily on China’s VIP market.

Philippine casinos posted more than 100 percent growth in VIP revenues  from high-rollers last year as it benefited from the Chinese government’s crackdown on corruption in Macau.

Nationwide casino gross gaming revenue grew 20 percent in the nine months ending September last year to P99.77 billion.

G2E Asia is the international gaming trade show and conference for the Asian gaming industry. Organized by the American Gaming Association (AGA) and Reed Exhibition, G2E Asia made its debut in 2007, defining itself as the preeminent show for the Asian gaming-entertainment industry.

The three-day conference, which kicked off Tuesday, intends to foster learning, present emerging opportunities and highlight the latest global industry trends.

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