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Manila opens first of four mega casinos

Manila opens first of four mega casinos
March 22, 2013

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has opened the giant Solaire Manila Resort casino, launching the Philippine capital as a gambling and resort destination to rival Macau and Las Vegas.

The first of four huge gambling/integrated resorts being built on reclaimed land in Manila Bay, the US$1.2 billion Solaire Manila Resorts, part of the new 'Entertainment City' destination has 300 gaming tables and 1,200 slot machines linked to a 500-room hotel and 2,000 parking spaces.

Aimed at increasingly affluent Asian visitors and located close to Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the venue is managed by Las Vegas-based Global Gaming Asset Management, Solaire. When complete, the venue will have added a 300 all-suite hotel, up to 40 high end retail outlets and a theatre for travelling Broadway shows as well as local and foreign lounge acts.

Prior to opening, Chief Operating Officer Michael French stated "what Solaire brings is an entertainment and gaming experience that doesn't exist in the Philippines today.

"The gaming experience here will probably be as good, if not even better, than what (gamblers) can achieve in Las Vegas."

Influenced by land reclamation in Tokyo Bay and Singapore's Marina Bay (on which the Marina Bay Sands and Singapore Flyer now stand), the reclamation of 148 hectares in Manila Bay will eventually house three other major gambling/integrated resorts, each backed by foreign investors, as well as a cruise ship terminal.

Scheduled to open later this year, the second integrated resort is a joint venture between Melco Crown Entertainment (MCE) Limited and the Belle Corporation.

The Belle Grande/MCE Leisure's integrated resort complex will include mass market and VIP gaming facilities, unique F&B offerings, numerous innovative entertainment attractions together with a high-end boutique with VIP and five-star luxury hotel rooms, suites and villas.

The integrated resort will feature three distinctive entertainment venues, including Manila's first branded family entertainment centre, a live performance central lounge inside the casino and a night club.

At a recent MCE Leisure event, MCE Leisure Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Lawrence Ho explained "the Philippines is a rapidly emerging market, with a burgeoning middle class and strong economic growth expected to contribute to robust growth in domestic tourism.

"Helped by a committed and forward-thinking Government approach to driving tourism, the Philippines is also well placed to cater to the increasingly affluent and growing middle class throughout Asia, who continue to seek new travel destinations and experiences throughout the region.

"We are confident that our Manila resort project would contribute meaningfully to the Philippines Government's aim to promote tourism."

The other gambling/integrated resorts are backed by Japanese gambling magnate Kazuo Okada and Malaysia's Genting Group, each in partnership with local business interests. Both are expected to open between 2015 and 2017.

Cristino Naguiat, head of state regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, said he expects Solaire to double Philippine gaming revenues this year to $US2 billion.

When all four are open, Naguiat said Entertainment City should boost the country's annual gaming revenues up to $US10 billion and help hit the government target of 10 million tourists annually, from just over four million last year.

Naguiat is confident the Philippines will eventually have one of the biggest gambling destinations in the world, comparing it with the Las Vegas strip's roughly $US6 billion turnover.

He adds "we will beat Las Vegas. I'm pretty sure of that."

Lawrence Ho agrees, concluding "the Philippines in five, six years could be effectively the size of Las Vegas or Singapore."

The growth of integrated resorts in Asia is explored in a feature in the March/April 2013 issue of Australasian Leisure Management. 


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