Entertainment City seen to exceed Vegas in gaming revenues
The Philippines can easily surpass the world’s gaming capital, Las Vegas, in terms of casino revenues once the Entertainment City project of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. is fully operational, the head of the state-owned agency predicted.
In an Interview with the Inquirer, Pagcor chairman and CEO Cristino Naguiat Jr. said exceeding Las Vegas’ revenues would be a goal that could be achieved, given how other gaming centers around Asia managed to do the same.
In particular, the southern Chinese enclave of Macau exceeded Las Vegas gaming revenues in 2007, with the former taking in $6.95 billion that year compared to the latter’s $6.6 billion.
More recently, Singapore — the newest gaming center in the region — was also estimated to have exceeded Las Vegas’ sales in 2011, taking in about $6.4 billion last year, versus the latter’s $6.2 billion.
“If Singapore, which only has two casinos, can overtake Las Vegas — with its main offering to guests and tourists being shopping along Orchard Road — I’m sure our Entertainment City can easily surpass their revenues,” Naguiat said.
The state-owned gaming regulator and casino operator is hoping to be the anchor for the government’s thrust to further develop tourism in the country by offering, among others, more five-star hotel rooms to accommodate the expected influx of foreign visitors.
Naguiat pointed out that, according to studies, foreign tourists were drawn mainly by a destination’s beaches and historical sites, in that order.
“We have everything they are looking for here in the Philippines,” he said, referring to the world-renowned beaches of Boracay as well as the Spanish-era walled city of Intramuros, which is only a few minutes’ drive from the Entertainment City’s site.
“We have Palawan’s underground river, and we have very old Spanish churches,” he added. “In Macau, they have the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is only the facade of the structure.”
The Aquino administration is aiming to attract about 6.5 million tourists yearly into the country by 2016. However, this goal is presently capped by the lack of hotel rooms in the country, which number only 15,641 in Metro Manila as of the latest government data.
The addition of hotel rooms in the Entertainment City complex will boost this number by 72 percent, according to a report of international stock brokerage firm CLSA, allowing for more tourists and gaming enthusiasts – especially from North Asia – to visit the country.
Up to $4 billion in investments is expected to be poured into the project which will rise on a 120-hectare reclamation area along Manila Bay.
The four license holders that form the backbone of Pagcor Entertainment City are the SM group, through gaming- and leisure-oriented unit Belle Corp.; Japan’s Aruze Corp.; Enrique Razon-owned Bloombury Corp., and Travellers International Hotels.
Once fully completed, Naguiat said the Entertainment City complex would add at least 5,000 five-star hotel rooms to the city’s current supply, making it the single biggest concentration of high-end accommodations in the country.
Under Pagcor’s existing policy, each of the gaming complex’s four anchor investors must first build and operate an upscale hotel of at least 800 rooms in size, before they will be allowed to start their casino facilities.
The policy is backed by the Travellers International Hotel Group, a joint venture between Alliance Global Inc. and Malaysia’s Genting group.
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