MANILA, Philippines—The head of the state-owned Philippine Amusement Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) sees the country becoming a key player in international gaming, accounting for up to a tenth of the global gaming market in a few years.
In a statement that reported on the highlights of a recent regional forum, Pagcor chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr. said that “compared to Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore, the Philippine gaming industry has a long way to go in terms of revenue potential.”
“With the right blend of private sector investment, regulatory maturity and improvements in tourism infrastructure, we believe that a 10 percent slice of the world’s gaming pie in a few years’ time is an achievable target,” he said.
Naguiat said the country’s growing potential as the region’s next best bet for tourism and gaming was given prominence during an international forum attended by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Finance Ministers and members of the international investing community.
“The breakout session on tourism and gaming during the 9th ASEAN Finance Ministers’ Investor Seminar (AFMIS) was well attended by fund managers, stock brokers, stock market analysts, and representatives of financial institutions. This indicates the high interest of international investors on tourism—specifically gaming—as one of the main engines for growth in the Philippines,” said Naguiat.
The Philippines recently hosted the AFMIS at the Island Shangri-La Hotel in Hong Kong where Naguiat was invited as one of the panelists during the breakout sessions. The forum was sponsored by HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, UBS and Bloomberg.
The forum promoted the region as an investment haven. Among the highlighted Asian growth drivers are tourism and gaming, resources and energy, real estate, infrastructure, and consumer and retail.
Aside from Naguiat, the breakout session panel for tourism and gaming also included Lloyd Nathan, CEO of Asian Coast Development Ltd., which is developing the MGM Integrated Resort in Ho Tram, Vietnam; Aireen Omar, CEO of AirAsia Berhad; Dato Lee Choong Yan, president and COO Of Genting Malaysia Berhad; and Kingson Sian, president of Travellers International Hotel Group, which operates Resorts World Manila.
“That forum gave us a chance to present to the members of the investing community the growth areas in the Philippines. One of them is gaming, which is growing in acceptance as an important element of tourism. In fact, even our Department of Tourism has included it as a core product under leisure and entertainment,” Naguiat said.
The Pagcor chief said that in his presentation during the breakout session, he talked about the gaming landscape in the Philippines, its growth potential, the country’s rich tourist attractions and its strategic location to main markets.
“On the macro level, the Asia-Pacific is in exciting times for global travel. The Philippines is geographically gifted with respect to distances to the region’s most prolific travelers. And based on statistics, the country is being visited mainly for leisure and entertainment,” Naguiat said.
Travellers’ Sian supported Pagcor’s proposition, noting that based on his company’s experience in Resorts World Manila, “we are optimistic that we would do even better with the second property (in Entertainment City). This is the reason why we are already planning for the Resorts World Bayshore project.”
Four integrated resorts are being built by Pagcor together with four private proponents in the 100-hectare Entertainment City project. The resorts are expected to provide 5,000 hotel rooms that can accommodate up to a million tourists annually and also offer over a million square meters of shopping, gaming, hotel and entertainment.
“At full development, Entertainment City is expected to have the capacity to deliver up to US$10 billion annually in gaming revenues, as well as generate over 400,000 direct and indirect jobs. We are highly enthusiastic about this project and the impact that it will have on Philippine tourism,” Naguiat said.
Naguiat was asked during the forum if local players would be allowed to play in Entertainment City following the Singapore model. “We cannot prevent them from going there. We do not want to deprive them of the chance to see and experience the world-class entertainment that the integrated resorts will provide. However, we will make sure that regulation will be in place,” he said.
Only the Philippines and Vietnam have integrated resort projects in the pipeline among Southeast Asian nations, he added.