PH gambling business seen comparable to Vegas in a few years

By: Doris C. Dumlao, March 15th, 2013 08:15 PM

LAS VEGAS-LIKE A scale model of the rising Entertainment City Manila, simply known as Pagcor City, a Las Vegas-like gaming and entertainment complex.

MANILA, Philippines—Macau casino magnate Lawrence Ho has no doubt that the Philippine gaming industry could be as big as Las Vegas or Singapore’s in the next five to six years.

The son of casino tycoon Stanley Ho arrived in Manila on Friday along with Australian business partner billionaire James Packer  to sign a gaming cooperation deal with the SM group and leisure estate unit Belle Corp.

Citing the “clustering” effect of gaming hubs being developed at Pagcor City, the co-chair and chief executive officer of Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. said the Philippine gaming market had the potential to grow quite significantly, citing analysts’ consensus that gaming revenues in the Philippines could hit $3 billion by 2015 with the opening of its hub alongside those of Solaire, Resorts World and the existing operations of state-controlled Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp.

“If you extrapolate that farther down the road, the Philippines, in five to six years could be the size of Las Vegas or Singapore which is about $6 billion (gaming revenues),” Ho said.

Moving forward, Ho said, Macau would continue to be his group’s hub.

“But it says something that Manila is the first (site) outside (Macau) jurisdiction that Melco Crown is pursuing in Asia, so we think the time is right and the market potential is excellent,” he said.  He added that growing the business in the Philippines would be Melco Crown’s focus in the next few years.

Ho and Packer’s Melco group is investing at least $600 million in this entertainment complex. This does not include the investment to be made by the SM group.  The construction of the facility, which is set to open in a year, is anticipated to cost at least $1 billion.

He said there will be some modifications to the masterplan that was drawn up prior to his group’s entry.  Especially after seeing Solaire Manila, the first facility to open in the area, he said his group would be “motivated” to make modifications.

Attacting foreign tourists is likewise the group’s goal instead of relying on local business, Ho said, adding that once the Philippines’ infrastructure base was improved over the years to allow easier travel to and from Metro Manila, this would grow foreign tourist arrivals.

Ho said the future hub in Manila won’t gnaw at the operations of the flagship hub in Macau.  While the new complex will contain the resort and entertainment flavor of the Macau hub, the Philippine complex will be more “family-oriented” and gear toward offering long-term vacations.

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