Next gambling capital
HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes (The Philippine Star) Updated January 13, 2010 12:00 AM
Will the Philippines become the next gambling destination in Asia?
Anchoring this bid is the “Entertainment City” project of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) near Manila Bay, initially covering about 85 hectares of reclaimed land in the Bay City area and to be developed in various stages over a 10-year period.
It is said that the City will be a fully integrated tourism zone featuring a wide array of international grade facilities amenities such as posh luxury hotels, convention stores, state of the art theaters, sports stadiums, restaurants, shopping centers, cultural complexes and museums, amusement parks and an Observation Tower, named Pagcor Tower that will be among the tallest structures of its kind in the world.
Meanwhile, the second and third phases of the project include the development of other tourism hubs in the country such as Clark in Pampanga and Cebu in the Visayas.
Entertainment City Manila will be a Las Vegas-like gaming and entertainment complex costing about $15 billion, all of which will come from private locators.
Four integrated resort projects have been selected by Pagcor to begin construction on Phase I of the Manila Bay project. Several investors from Japan, United States, South Korea and Europe had expressed strong interest in investing in the entertainment complex.
Pagcor has identified the Loutraki group, one of the biggest casino operators in Europe, as one of the casino operators interested in setting up operations on the reclaimed Pagcor property in Manila Bay.
Only five percent of the total property would be devoted to casinos though. A big chunk of the property would be geared for other developments such as themed park, hotels, wellness center, retirement village, residential condominiums, office developments and commercial centers.
Japanese investors for instance are said to be interested in developing a retirement village within the area to cater to the rapidly expanding retiree market.
With the completion of Entertainment City, Pagcor expects tourist arrival in the country to reach 10 million over five years.
The Entertainment City will help the Philippines catch up with Macau, Asia’s casino capital.
Those that will be locating in the complex are Genting Berhad of Malaysia, through subsidiary Star Cruises, in a joint venture with Alliance Global Group, SM Investments Corp. in a tie-up with Asia Pacific Gaming Corp. of Australia, among others.
Genting Berhad and Alliance Global, of course, are also behind the successful new casino project at the Newport City in Pasay.
The key to the Philippines’ success to become a gambling destination though is not the Filipino gambling community but the one billion Chinese, one billion Indian nationals, and another billion Asians spread over the continent. There has to be a way to attract not only the high-rollers from the other Asian countries but also tourists who want to gamble part of their money just like they do when they visit Macau or Las Vegas to come visit Manila.
Will the idea of the Philippines as the next Macau or Las Vegas fly even though we are a predominantly Catholic country that finds gambling immoral, be it legalized or not? That remains to be seen.