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Melco inks gaming deal with SM-Belle group

Visiting execs see changes in project’s master plan

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Macau casino magnate Lawrence Ho said he had no doubt the Philippine gaming industry could be as big as Las Vegas or Singapore in the next five to six years.

The son of casino tycoon Stanley Ho and his partner, Australian billionaire James Packer, arrived in Manila on Friday 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 in 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 revenue in the Philippines could hit $3 billion by 2015 with the opening of its hub and those of Solaire and Resorts World, and the existing operations of state-controlled Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp.

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

Ho said Macau would remain his group’s hub. “But Manila is the first (venture)  outside the (Macau) jurisdiction that Melco Crown is pursing in Asia. 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.

Melco group, a partnership between Ho and Packer,  is investing at least $600 million in this entertainment complex. This will be on top of 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 reach at least $1 billion.

He said there would be some modifications in the master plan that was made prior to his group’s entry into the project.  After seeing Solaire Manila, the first facility to open in the area, he said his group would be “motivated” to make modifications.

Ho said the future hub in Manila would not affect 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.”


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