More casinos to rise outside of Entertainment City
Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - January 1, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — More casinos are expected to rise outside of the Entertainment City in Parañaque as more and more investors bet big on gambling on the back of the country’s loose regulations on the industry.

Despite the proliferation of several casinos around the country, the market isn’t saturated yet and has room to grow, an expert said.

“We think penetration is low and will continue to grow,” said gaming analyst Alex Poon, vice president of Morgan Stanley Research, in an email to The STAR.

An industry player, meanwhile, agreed there is room to grow as long as it is outside the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor’s) Entertainment City in Parañaque.

“As long as they build it outside Entertainment City, it is okay. But here, it is already enough,” said an industry player who owns and operates one of four licensed integrated casino resorts in the 100-hectare gaming hub.

Duterte’s pivot to China has paved the way for more Mainland Chinese players visiting the country, promising rosy prospects for the gaming sector, the same source said.

As it is now, casinos are sprawling outside Metro Manila.

For one, Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd., the world famous Macau-based casino operator, and Leisure and Resorts World Corp. (LRWC) are building a world-class beach resort and casino in Boracay Island in Panay.

LRWC is the listed gaming company founded by Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez. The joint venture is pouring in $300- to $500-million for the project which has no definite timetable yet.

Businessman Dennis Uy, founder of Davao-based Phoenix Petroleum and a known ally of Duterte, is also building Lapu-Lapu Leisure Mactan, a $341 million integrated casino resort in Cebu, the first of its kind outside Metro Manila.

Uy is also looking to expand his presence in the casino sector, industry sources said.

Raymundo Martin Escalona, director for special projects of Udenna, said Lapu-Lapu would be the “best casino” in Cebu, designed by no less than architect Paul Steelman, designer of The Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, The Sands in Macau and the Entertainment City’s Solaire Resort.

Meanwhile, MJC Investments Corp., a joint venture between the Reynos’ Manila Jockey Club and a group of Hong Kong strategic investors, also formally opened Winford Hotel & Casino, a hotel, gaming and entertainment project within Manila’s Chinatown in Sta. Cruz, Manila.

Enrique Razon’s Solaire is also building a P20-billion resort in Quezon City, his second casino after the Entertainment City.

Over in the north, the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), operator of the freeport zone in Cagayan, said there would also be integrated gaming resorts in the area.

CEZA administrator and CEO Secretary Raul Lambino said First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corp. (FCLRC) and the North Cagayan Gaming and Amusement Corp. (NCGAC), would ensure that only legitimate gaming companies would operate at the economic zone.

In all, gaming operators around the globe are looking for new markets and many are setting their sights on the Philippines given its loose regulation and growing young population.

Morgan Stanley’s Poon said Duterte’s pivot to China has also led to better ties with China and has translated to more Chinese visitor arrivals.

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