he local partner would operate the shopping establishments outside the main casino-hotel projects set to rise on a 45-hectare site along Manila Bay, said Kazuo Okada, also the biggest shareholder of Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts, after groundbreaking ceremonies for the project.
"The Philippines is a very attractive country to invest (in)," Okada told reporters, adding his group was "very confident" of pursuing the project after President Benigno Aquino was elected into office in 2010. Okada declined to give details about the talks for the partner.
The Philippines project has caused friction between Okada and Wynn Resorts, with the company objecting to Okada competing with it. Okada has sued Wynn Resorts' founder, Steve Wynn, whom he accused of blocking access to records related to his investment in the casino operator.
Universal, through its subsidiary Tiger Resorts, Leisure and Entertainment, is constructing two luxury casino hotels with more than 1,000 rooms in all, a budget hotel, and high-end shopping malls within the Manila Bay Resorts project.
The project is part of the Entertainment City integrated resort development which state firm Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) estimates will attract investments of at least us$ 5 billion over the next five years.
Three other groups are pursuing developments in the Entertainment City project, namely Bloomsbury Investments, the joint venture between Genting Hong Kong and Alliance Global Group via Travellers International Hotel Group, and Philippine developer Belle Corp. Both Bloomsbury and Belle Corp expect to open their gaming projects by 2013.
Cristino Naguiat, PAGCOR chairman, told reporters other foreign investors, as well as fund managers, were considering entering the Philippines' gaming industry, with some of the groups talking to existing investors in the sector. "I'm hearing a lot of talks," said Naguiat. He declined to give more details.
He said Melco Crown Entertainment, owned by Australian billionaire James Packer and Hong Kong businessman Lawrence Lo, son of Macau gambling mogul Stanley Ho, had initially expressed interest in the Philippine gaming business.
PAGCOR grew its total revenues by 16.5 % to a record us$ 851.01 million last year. It expects revenues to grow by at least 16 percent this year.
Naguiat said the Philippines could attract 10 % of the us$ 115 billion global gaming industry when the Entertainment City is fully operational in five years, possibly outpacing Las Vegas' current annual revenues of around us$ 6 billion.