he four casinos will anchor the square-kilometer Bagong Nayong Pilipino Entertainment City and will see some of Asia’s richest tycoons face off against one another. Total investment is projected at us$ 5 billion.
Licenses went to Philippine billionaire Enrique Razon Jr. and his Bloomberry Resorts; the SM Consortium, backed by the country’s richest person, Henry Sy; billionaire Japanese pachinko king Kazuo Okada and Resorts World Bayshore, a partnership between Malaysia’s Genting Group, controlled by the family of billionaire Lim Kim Hua, and Alliance Global Group, a Philippine food industry conglomerate run by billionaire Andrew Tan. Okada’s project and Resorts World are shaping up as the two biggest projects by land area, with the four aiming to share evenly a total of 5,000 hotel rooms. Resorts World says it will open 5,400 slot machines and 800 gaming tables.
The Philippines already gets 30% of its casino revenue from abroad, led by Koreans and Chinese, and the new gambling palaces figure to attract much greater numbers of free-spending foreign tourists. One draw is the surge of cheap flights, with round-trip tickets from Hong Kong costing as little as us$ 162 and from Seoul starting at us$ 248. Cristino Naguiat Jr., chairman of the Philippine gaming authority, believes that gamblers will prefer the Philippines to other Asian gaming centers because they can visit tropical atolls on the same trip: “As our secretary of tourism says, it’s more fun in the Philippines.” Indeed, Naguiat is also studying a casino project in the beach town of Boracay.
All this has Steve Wynn, for one, worried that his new competitors will siphon off traffic from Macau, a concern that contributed to Okada’s ouster from Wynn Resorts. Neither of the two big American casino operators in Macau, Wynn and Sheldon Adelson, have shown an appetite for projects in the Philippines.
Gamblers say they find lower minimum bets and good service in the country.