Villar bets $1B on gaming resort venture
Property tycoon Manuel Villar Jr. is investing about $1 billion to expand into the integrated gaming resort business, starting with the redevelopment of Vista Mall Global South shopping mall along C5 extension in Las Pinas into a casino about the size of Solaire Resort & Casino.
In a media chat last Friday night, Villar said he had begun the conversion of Global South mall into a casino with a gross floor area of about 18,000 square meters, roughly as big as the gaming space of Solaire.
Apart from the license issued by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), Villar said his group had already obtained the requisite approvals from the local government unit. By converting an existing mall structure into a casino, he said he would save about a year’s time of construction work.
As such, Villar’s casino would likely be finished in about a year and soon, he would announce a foreign partner that would join him in this new venture, Villar said.
His estate in this area spans about 80 hectares, which could be developed into an integrated resort, with malls, hotels, condotels and even a theme park. “That will be the biggest in terms of land area,” he said, adding this would effectively be the fifth integrated resort to rise on the country’s version of Las Vegas strip.
Four of the other integrated resorts are located at the Pagcor Entertainment City: Enrique Razon’s Solaire; Belle Corp.’s City of Dreams Manila, Okada Manila and Andrew Tan’s Westside City.
His integrated resort, Villar said, would take its cue from the gaming hubs in Las Vegas.
“The Las Vegas model no longer relies on the high-rollers but mostly slot machines [for mass market],” Villar said. “The casino will just be the anchor … I look at it more as a resort.”
However, he said it would still be great to bring in the high rollers. He said many parties were now applying to bring in the VIP market to the forthcoming casino.
Villar said the commitment to Pagcor was to invest $1 billion in the project, including the value of the land.
To date, a small hospitality business, Mella Hotel, is operating in the area. He said this was just “for practice” as bigger hotels would be built in the future.
Under Pagcor’s rules, Villar must invest in hotel rooms at a certain proportion to the gaming space to be opened.
By next year, Villar said he would have more details on the integrated gaming project, which is taking shape just when COVID-19 pandemic protocols have been relaxed.
Asked what the integrated resort would be called, Villar said he had yet to finalize the branding.
In 2019, the Inquirer reported that Villar was planning to build an integrated resort called “Gold Coast Entertainment City” near Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Based on proposals submitted to the local government then, the casino would be developed and operated by Prime Asset Ventures Inc., which is led by the tycoon’s son Manuel Paolo Villar, and its indirect wholly owned subsidiary, Vertex Entertainment and Resorts Corp.
The Villar family was one of the groups that had been able to obtain a gaming license from Pagcor before former President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a moratorium on new casino applications.
A former seafood vendor from Tondo who built a fortune out of property development, Villar retired from politics to focus on growing his business empire after losing his presidential bid in 2010. INQ
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