For casinos in Manila's gaming strip, more is better

Mon Mar 2, 2015 5:31am EST
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By Aradhana Aravindan and Neil Jerome Morales

SINGAPORE/MANILA (Reuters) - More than three years after opening ultra-luxe nightclub Pangaea in Singapore's glitzy Marina Bay Sands, owner Michael Van Cleef Ault is now betting that Manila's casinos will be able to draw rich punters and partygoers through his doors.

The founder of some of the world's most popular luxury clubs launched two nightclubs in casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd's $1 billion-plus City of Dreams casino-resort, hoping to capitalize on rising wealth in the Philippines, which last year was the fastest growing Asian economy after China.

The increase in the number of wealthy Chinese gamblers fleeing Macau amid Beijing's intensifying crackdown on corruption is also likely to work in Manila's favor: VIPs are already frequenting casinos in locales such as Australia.

Macau, the world's biggest gambling hub, is due to post February gambling revenues on Monday, which analysts expect to fall by up to 55 percent versus 40 percent growth a year ago.

"We want to bring more people to Manila, make Manila more of a club destination, a destination for other things, for luxury, for clubbing and these integrated resorts will only add to that," Ault told Reuters at the newly opened Pangaea in Manila, with its animal skin and gold-dipped feather decor.

Melco's City of Dreams is the second of four integrated resorts licensed for Entertainment City, Manila's much-smaller version of the Las Vegas gaming strip. The first casino, the $1.2 billion Solaire, is seeing a pick up in business after intensifying efforts to attract more high-rollers.

The casinos are central to the government's aim to boost tourism and the economy, but challenges include Manila's dilapidated infrastructure and concerns over safety and corruption, problems that have limited foreign investment in the Philippines for years.

In its most recent published data, industry regulator the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) said gross gaming revenues rose by a tenth to $2.2 billion in 2013 from a year ago, a figure dwarfed by Macau's $45.2 billion revenues and Singapore's $7 billion intake in the same year.   Continued...

Michael Van Cleef Ault, owner of Pangaea Singapore, poses during an interview with Reuters in his club underneath the casino complex of the Marina Bay Sands December 4, 2014.  REUTERS/Edgar Su