Manila— Casinos are big business in the Philippines, and the industry is definitely growing. In the first quarter of this year, PAGCOR, the Philippine Amusement, and Gaming Corporation reported earnings of PHP18.27 billion (S$477 million) from gaming operations, up by over 15 percent from the same period last year.
And, since half of PAGCOR’s gaming income goes directly toward government funds, the country’s Bureau of the Treasury ended up receiving roughly S$233 million, aside from a sizable 5 percent donation to the Philippines Dangerous Drugs Board, another government entity.
PAGCOR is responsible for operating establishments under the Casino Filipino label in seven cities, with satellites all over the country.
Where Mr Duterte once considered casinos to have some of the same ill effects as the narcotics trade, he has since revised his opinion, softening his stance a good deal, especially with casinos raking in S$4.93 billion in earnings in 2018.
He had originally ordered PAGCOR to sell its casinos but he seems to have changed his mind in the light of the high profitability of the Filipino casinos.
In Manila, the nation’s capital, there are four land-based casinos that dominate the scene and bring in the highest percentage of gross gaming revenue (GGR), with another one looming on the horizon. These are City of Dreams, Solaire, Resorts World, and Okada, which collectively brought in S$3.71 billion in 2018.
Perhaps this has caused the president to command PAGCOR to turn the country into “the top gaming and entertainment destination in Southeast Asia by 2020.”
With this announcement, industry experts are expecting an influx of gaming license applications to flood the country.
City of Dreams announced in April that it is considering expanding its operations in Manila.
Willy Ocier, the chairman of Premium Leisure Corporation, a major investor of City of Dreams Manila, said: “The expansion of City of Dreams is being studied by our partners as well as ourselves.”
And while Mr Ocier noted the possibility of opening more casinos that carry the City of Dreams name, he added that his company had yet to identify venues for their proposed expansion.
Premium Leisure reported a nearly ten percent increase in the first quarter of this year, earning Php 724.7 million (S$18.9 million).
Meanwhile, Entertainment City, a 120-hectare area of reclaimed land close to downtown Manila, is currently being developed into a casino zone. Modeling itself after Macau’s Cotai district, which has been massively successful.
Additionally, Bloomberry Resorts Corp, which owns Solaire Resort and Casino, has announced that it will develop a second casino under the Solaire brand, this time in Quezon City, in the northern part of the nation’s capital, Manila.
The third major casino resort in Manila is called Okada Manila and is owned and operated by Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc, which is a subsidiary of Japanese gaming conglomerate Universal Entertainment Corp.
In its GGR filing, Okada Manila reported that it had earned PHP2.48 billion (S$65 million), which is over 25 percent higher than the previous year.
All three casino resorts are also recording increased numbers of visitors, as well as VIP and mass market revenue.
And now, two more casino resorts are about to enter the scene.
First, Travellers International Hotel Group is currently building its own casino-hotel, Westside City Resorts World.
Next, Waterfront, paid S$137 million in cash more than a decade ago in fulfillment of the requirements from PAGCOR to operate.
Despite legal delays, Waterfront was recently given the go signal to operate a casino at Entertainment City. The Philippines’ Court of Appeals said that the license granted to Waterfront is “similar to those granted to Resorts World Manila, City of Dreams, Solaire Resort & Casino and Okada Manila.”
With these five big players in the industry, President Duterte may yet get his wish. / TISG