Philippines opens mammoth casino-resort, seeking high-rollers
MANILA, Philippines–A new mega-casino opened in the Philippines Monday as the fast-growing southeast Asian nation ups its bid to become a world gaming destination.
Manila aims to rival Macau and Las Vegas in terms of gaming revenues, and the “City of Dreams” is the latest in a string of casinos that have opened in recent years.
The new casino is an imposing structure on Manila Bay with six gleaming golden towers surrounding a giant egg-shaped dome, and industry and government leaders hope that it will attract cashed-up tourists from other parts of Asia.
The casino, operated by the Melco Crown Entertainment, is a joint venture between the country’s richest man Henry Sy, Australian billionaire James Packer and Lawrence Ho, son of Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho.
“The goal is to find the best (sites) in Asia… The Philippines is one of the fastest -growing economies anywhere in the world. We’ve seen the market really pick up,” Ho told reporters.
Ho also acknowledged the huge cost of building the resort. The Philippine government requires a minimum $1 billion investment for new casinos built in the area.
Packer said jokingly that the resort was inspired by Hollywood movies “Casino” and “Oceans Eleven,” and Robert de Niro, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have appeared on giant billboards and TV commercials to promote the casino.
For international and local gamblers
The Manila casino will cater to the growing influx of tourists to the Philippines, but Clarence Chung Yuk Man, chairman of the Philippine arm of Melco Crown, said it would also target local gamblers who are estimated to have parted with $2.3 billion last year.
He said out of the casino operators with licenses in the Philippines, Melco is the only one with a customer base in Macau and can bring in VIP customers and high-rollers.
“We will promote cross marketing and also try to promote this property to our customers so that there is additional choice for them,” Chung told a news conference.
The 6.2-hectare (15-acre) complex is the second of four mega-resorts to open on reclaimed portions of the bay, just a few hundred meters from the city’s slum communities.
The resort houses a casino; the Crown, Nobu (part-owned by Hollywod star Robert de Nero) and Hyatt hotels; two premium nightclubs; the world’s first DreamWorks-inspired interactive play space DreamPlay; restaurants and retail shops.
The City of Dreams’ golden dome, called the “Fortune Egg,” houses the two nightclubs, including Pangaea, where Picasso copies hang beside pictures of safari animals on walls covered in fake snakeskin.
Monday’s glittering opening for City of Dreams was capped off with a concert by American music stars Ne-Yo and Kelly Rowland.
The Philippines economy grew at more than six percent in 2014 for the third straight year, prompting economic planning secretary Arsenio Balisacan to comment that the country has shaken off its reputation as the “sick man” of Asia.
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