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Mega casino to open in March

MANILA, Philippines - A 500-room casino hotel near Manila Bay owned by the group of port tycoon Enrique Razon and designed to rival those in Macau and Las Vegas is set to begin commercial operations on March 16.

The $1.2-billion Solaire Manila of publicly listed Bloomberry Resorts Corp. has initially hired 400 Filipinos with working experiences in casino hotels across the globe to serve its high-end gaming clients. The casino hotel is situated in the Entertainment City, a 100-hectare property reclaimed from Manila Bay and owned by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor). The Entertainment City is being eyed to compete with Las Vegas, Singapore and Macau as gaming hub.

Bloomberry is one of the four franchise holders in Entertainment City and the first to complete a project. The three others are Andrew Tan’s Alliance Global, Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada and taipan Henry Sy’s Belle Corp.

Australian billionaire James Packer and Macau gaming tycoon Lawrence Ho are shareholders in the project. The investors are required to fork over at least $1 billion each.

“Many of the most modern resorts and gaming equipment and facilities are installed and will be used in Solaire Manila,” Bloomberry said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange yesterday. It also said Solaire will have 300 more rooms in two years as part of the project’s “Phase 1a.”

“(We) confirm that (Bloomberry’s) Solaire Manila Resorts and Casino has collected the top former operating officers of world-renowned casinos in Las Vegas and other parts of the world,” it said.

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Pagcor chairman Cristino Naguiat has projected at least $10 billion in revenues by 2017 from the operations of the four gaming giants in Entertainment City. Bloomberry said it could not confirm the figure. If Naguiat’s figure is accurate, it could put Entertainment City among the world’s gaming big leagues.

Belle disclosed early this week that it had spent P2.886 billion for the construction of its Belle Grande Manila Bay Integrated Resort and Gaming complex.

The four groups are also raising P6.5 billion to help fund an elevated road project linking the Ninoy Aquino International Airport with the Entertainment City. A dedicated road between the airport and Entertainment City is expected to encourage more visitors to the casino resort.

The P15.86-billion Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway project spearheaded by the Department of Public Works and Highways is part of the government’s public-private partnership or PPP program.

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