Manila debuts as gambling's new VIP venue with $1.2 billion casino

Sat Mar 16, 2013 12:18am EDT
 
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By Rosemarie Francisco

MANILA (Reuters) - Big casino operators will be scrutinizing the Philippines' debut as Asia's newest top-end gambling destination this weekend to see if Manila can deliver on promises of better profit margins and lower costs than global betting capital Macau.

They also want to know whether Bloomberry Resorts Corp, whose shares have climbed 40 percent in the last six months on hopes of quick returns, can overcome national security concerns and flawed infrastructure to bring in VIPs from China to place bets at its $1.2 billion Solaire casino resort.

Top officials at rivals Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd and Genting Hong Kong Ltd, with their respective local partners Belle Corp and Alliance Global Group Inc, are among hundreds of guests who will witness the Solaire casino roll its first dice on Saturday.

"There are high rollers coming in to play ... I am expecting at least 1-1.5 billion pesos ($25 million to $37 million) to be wagered tomorrow night," Cristino Naguiat, head of local regulator the Philippine Gaming Corp (Pagcor) told reporters on Friday. The opening ceremony will be led by Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

Solaire, the first of four casino resorts to open on a 100-hectare complex overlooking Manila Bay, hopes to help lift the Philippines' expected gaming revenues to $3 billion by 2015 from $2 billion this year by luring rich Filipino and Chinese gamblers to its halls, sparkling with crystal and gold.

Owned by the country's third richest man Enrique Razon, it expects to earn two-thirds of revenues at its 15-storey, 500-room casino resort from local players in its first year of operation, shifting to an even balance between foreign and domestic customers after a year or two.

Pagcor expects the Philippines' annual gambling revenues to hit $10 billion by 2017 when all four casino resorts at the Entertainment City complex are up and running, surpassing the $6 billion markets boasted by both Singapore and Las Vegas.

Michael French, Solaire's chief operating officer, said the company is close to signing deals with four big junket operators from Macau and Hong Kong who will help fill up the casino's 95 tables reserved for VIPs, about a third of its gaming tables.   Continued...

 
Solaire Casino-Resort Chief Operating officer Michael French (C) poses with waitresses a few days before the casino opening in Pasay city, Metro Manila March 14, 2013. REUTERS/Erik De Castro