Friday, December 15, 2017
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Stop expansion of casinos outside Entertainment City, gov’t urged

The next administration should discourage the near-term expansion of casinos outside the Entertainment City complex that could dampen business prospects within the Manila Bay gaming hub, where operators have invested massive sums, Belle Corp. vice chair Willy Ocier said.

Belle, backed by the Sy family’s SM Group, owns the City of Dreams Manila casino in Entertainment City. City of Dreams is operated by Macau’s Melco Crown Entertainment.

Ocier made the statement a week after Enrique Razon Jr., owner of the Solaire Resort and Casino within the same gaming complex, said they might start a new casino project in Quezon City next year.

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Belle’s City of Dreams Manila was now on its second year of operations and was poised to post year-on-year growth, Ocier said.

However, he noted that competition also came from smaller casinos, gambling cafes and slot machine arcades around the capital district.

In the next two years, two more multibillion-dollar integrated casinos—Manila Bay Resorts and Resorts World Bayshore—are opening in Entertainment City, the country’s response to regional gaming hubs in Macau and Singapore.

“We spent more than $1 billion in [City of Dreams],” Ocier told reporters at the sidelines of the company’s annual meeting Monday. “If the government allows smaller casinos, here, there, everywhere, it defeats the purpose of why we are here, an integrated casino.”

Ocier warned that the situation could turn out similar to Las Vegas, which also faced competition from Native American gaming facilities like bingo halls and casinos located within Indian reservations. He said this was what hurt earnings for Las Vegas-based casinos.

Instead, Ocier said regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. should “direct all traffic to Entertainment City.”

“That’s where the infrastructure is concentrated,” he said. “I don’t mind competing in that environment where casinos are together. People will jump from one casino to another.”

Ocier said the company might consider expanding depending on the growth of the gaming industry under the next administration, but he clarified that nothing was on the table at the moment.

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“We really  have to wait for the next Pagcor board, which is a few months away,” Ocier said. “We will also have to make the adjustment in terms of our projections and strategies if they [Razon’s group] are allowed to put up a casino in Quezon City.”

Belle announced strong results in 2015 as it recorded revenues of P5.2 billion, up 64 percent, while recurring profit was at P1.3 billion, up 29 percent.

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