It’s not a surprise that more investments in the Philippines’ gambling industry are coming in despite the current pandemic in the country. For recent years, gambling revenue in the Philippines has been continuously increasing with a recorded 20.8% year-on-year gain just last year. The thriving industry has had a steady stream of VIP players from neighboring countries with roughly a 50% increase in traffic since 2018.
One of the fastest growing gambling markets in the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines is banking on the latest casino boom especially due to the suppression of operators in the world’s largest gambling hub, Macau.
Hong Kong-listed gaming investor International Entertainment Corp (IEC) revealed its plans this month to develop an integrated casino resort in the Philippines’ capital city, Manila. Through its subsidiary in the country, Marina Square Properties Inc, the gaming corporation is in the process of expanding a prime development named New Coast Hotel Manila (Formerly New World Manila Bay).
Obtaining a Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) approved license is integral for its plans to continue and operate a larger legal gambling enterprise. Just recently, the company has successfully secured a Letter of No Objection and a City Council Resolution from the City of Manila as part of the requirements posed by the gaming authoritative body.
Currently, the IEC already leases space in the establishment formerly known as New World Manila Bay Hotel for gaming operations. The company however, plans to “expand and upgrade the current hotel premises, facilities and services by the establishment and operation of a casino and the development of an integrated resort in the City of Manila, Philippines.”
IEC, the parent company of PokerStars Live Asia
Largely known in the poker industry as the parent company of leading brand PokerStars Live Asia, it has only been a few years since the IEC partnered with The Stars Group, owner of the PokerStars brand. Since May of 2018, the Hong Kong based company has been in charge of handling all PokerStars events for select countries in Asia such as Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Japan, Cambodia, and Macau based on a three-year contract, “renewed automatically for successive periods of 12 months each.”
“Stars Group has granted Lucky Genius Limited (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the IEC) the right to operate land-based live events and poker rooms under the branding of PokerStars in certain Asian countries.”
With the brand’s partnership with City of Dreams Macau ending abruptly in 2018, Chairman of IEC and poker player Stanley Choi has been keen on exploring opportunities in different Asian countries to hold its beloved festivals. So far, the esteemed operator has successfully held multiple events such as the grand Red Dragon series and the APPT Open in different territories within the region.
In spite of the fact that IEC handles live poker events and operations, the poker community should not necessarily link the developing project to upcoming live poker events or a new poker room in Manila. It has to be noted that IEC current agreement with PokerStars does not include Philippines.
The gaming investor’s scope of activity is much larger than the realm of poker as it deals with hotel and leasing of properties as well as various ancillary leisure and entertainment operations. Presently, no information on live poker in connection with the upgrade of New Coast Hotel Manila has been presented.
More casino developments in the Philippines
While it is obvious that the coronavirus pandemic has affected the majority of non-essential businesses all around the world, the booming casino industry has received especially detrimental effects brought about by the unfortunate circumstance.
Extensive loss of revenue and unexpected delays in development are some of the concerns primary operators are currently experiencing. It has only been less than a month since lockdown orders for the country have eased, allowing a number of projects to continue with its construction and move forward with its plans.
Two casino properties are in the works of establishing a share in the country’s flourishing gambling industry.
Bloomberry Resorts Corp has plans of developing a Solaire North gaming venue in Quezon City, Metro Manila but has been facing regulatory hurdles in addition to the delays brought about by the Covid-19 situation. Although the construction has reportedly been “partially restarted”, Bloomberry CEO Enrique Razon revealed that the project may not be ready until the end of 2022 or even into 2023.
Another casino property outside of the capital metropolitan area, PH Resorts Group Holdings has the construction of their showcase property Emerald Bay casino resort in Mactan, Cebu underway since December 2017. According to CEO of PH Resorts Dennis Uy, the project is expected to be completed by 2020 and scheduled to open by 2022. Due to the huge losses incurred this first quarter of the year, the company is now looking to pick up another $15 million round of new share offering to fund its projects. Facing a series of challenges, the anticipated Emerald Bay resort will be the first of three major casino projects in the Mactan area, boasting a 7,600 square meter gaming area for its initial phase along with 838 rooms, 18 restaurants and a retail complex area of 8,000 square meters.
“The group expects to commence the hiring process in respect of the Emerald Bay’s gaming and hotel operations and fill a number of managerial and administrative roles within the company’s principal office in the fourth quarter of 2021.”, said Uy in a statement.