Philippines is seeking to accelerate construction of a gaming venue

James Packer and Lawrence Ho eye us$ 1 billion Manila casino

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(Philippines).- James Packer and Lawrence Ho, son of Macau betting mogul Stanley Ho, may invest at least us$ 1 billion in a Manila casino project. "Discussions are still ongoing" with Melco Crown Entertainment, the casino venture of Mr Packer and Mr Ho," said Cristino Naguiat, chairman of Philippine Amusement & Gaming, the state-owned casino operator and regulator. "I think they're serious."

Four companies won licences in 1998 to operate casinos in a gaming and entertainment complex the government plans to build in Manila. The Philippines is seeking to accelerate construction as gamblers in Asia fuel casinos in Singapore and Macau.

Each licensee agreed to invest us$ 1 billion over five years, Mr Naguiat said, identifying three of them as a venture of Genting Malaysia, Philippine property developer Belle and Philippine ports magnate Enrique Razon's Bloombury Investments. e declined to name the fourth, saying only that it was a Japanese company.

Belle and Bloombury had started construction while the rest would begin by the first quarter of next year, Mr Naguiat said. Melco's Geoffrey Davis didn't reply to a request for comment.

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