Macau casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment is set to enter the prosperous Philippines market by partnering with local property developer Belle Corp., controlled by the country’s richest man Henry Sy. The deal will see the company develop a $1 billion casino resort at Manila Bay.
The deal will intensify competition in the Manila gaming industry, where the Philippine government and state-owned gambling authority PAGCOR is set to develop a casino strip and launch a new era of gambling to the Philippines.
Henry Sy’s SM Investments Corp. invests in Belle Corp. as one of its portfolio investments. The company is the most dominant player in the Philippine’s retail market.
Belle Corp. is one of four companies licensed to develop casinos in the Manila Bay area and has almost completed construction of the us$1 billion casino resort. The company is in talks with Melco Crown to operate the property’s casino, but nothing has been finalised said Vice Chairman Willy Ocier on Wednesday.
“A partnership with a seasoned and experienced foreign player will give this venture an edge and turn it into a better contender,” said Richard Laneda, Analyst at Manila-based CitisecOnline.com, “This partnership will make SM’s casino investment more promising.”
Melco Crown is a joint venture between Australian casino mogul James Packer and Lawrence Ho, the company’s CEO and son to “The King of Gambling” Stanley Ho. Recently listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange, Melco is looking to expand through Asia with properties that use a gaming element to fund integrated entertainment facilities.
Each casino project requires a minimum investment of $1bn that can be spread over 5 years. The other concessionaires are Bloomberry Resorts, owned by local ports tycoon Enrique Razon; a joint venture between Malaysian casino company Genting Hong Kong and Philippine conglomerate Alliance Global Group; and Universal Entertainment, a pachinko company run by Japan’s Kazuo Okada.
The state is looking to build Manila into a gaming hotspot, ahead of Japan and Vietnam attracting casino operators to capitalise on the intensifying Asian market. The Philippines wants to develop gaming as one of the city’s core pillars of tourism, according to Jorge Sarmiento, COO of Pagcor.