Las Vegas hotel casino to place bets on Philippines

Las Vegas based Wynn Resorts said it is pursuing investment opportunities in the Philippines, one of which is a hotel casino similar to its Macau facility.

The company’s disclosure comes as state-run Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. (Pagcor) announced plans to set up a world-class gaming and entertainment complex in Manila Bay, patterned after Las Vegas of the United States.

Tim Shiah, a representative of Jack Binion of Wynn Resorts, said the company is “committed to look at all opportunities in the Philippines.” Jack Binion runs the international operations of the hotel casino chain, the first of which was Wynn Macau.

“Wynn Macau is actually looking into the Philippines. Jack Binion is director of Wynn International that’s why he’s been down here for the last couple of years and they’re looking [around],” Shiah said at the Asia Gaming and Entertainment Expo briefing.

“You know the biggest asset in the Philippines—and I can’t preach this loud enough—is the people here, the workforce,” he added.

Hotel chain owner Steve Wynn and Binion had talked about duplicating Wynn Macau in the country, Shiah said, adding that the renewal of the license and eventual amendment to the charter of Pagcor would make it easier for the group to enter the local gaming scene.

Efraim Genuino, Pagcor chairman, said Congress’ renewal of the company’s franchise is instrumental to the amendment of its charter. He said Congress tweaked part of Pagcor’s charter to allow it to enter into joint ventures for future projects, including the proposed “Pagcor City.”

“Now that is clearly established [Pagcor charter] … there [are] definitely some big [establishments] other than Mr. Binion and Mr. Wynn [looking at Philippines]. There’s Poster Gaming Financial from Las Vegas, Nevada. There are several groups looking. Unfortunately, a lot of groups aren’t going to lay out their cards on the table. But I can assure you that they’re actively pursuing the Philippines,” Shiah said.

The Wynn representative said building the hotel casino in the country would probably cost the same as the Macau facility at around USD 1.4 billion. The future Wynn Resort Philippines has the potential to grow bigger than the one in the Chinese territory, because the country has beautiful beach resorts.

The hotel group is also eyeing future investments in Pagcor City and it may not only be in the form of casinos but may also include Las Vegas-style entertainment.

“There’s so much revenue generated from the tourists, from the shows and the entertainment. The gaming is a small component. It’s a critical component but it’s small,” Shiah said.

With the rise of Pagcor City and entry of other big gaming corporations in the country, the Philippines may overtake Macau in terms of size and revenue in 7 to 10 years, he said.

Genuino said Pagcor City will sit on 800 hectares of reclaimed land along Manila Bay.

The project, which will be finished in two years, is estimated to cost between USD 15 billion and USD 20 billion.

The Pagcor official said investors from Europe, Japan, the United States and South Korea have already signified interest to fund the venture.

“Ninety percent of the funds for the project will come from foreign investors,” he said.

The official said that the Japanese investors are interested in developing a retirement village within the area for its retirees.

Genuino said that the construction of the first phase, which will include a resort, hotels, and a theme park, starts this year. The project has three phases.

He said the investments from foreign partners will be finalized this year after Pagcor’s charter is amended.

Last year Pagcor posted about P25 billion in revenues, higher than the previous year’s P23 billion. “Eighty percent of our revenue [last year] came from foreign tourists,” Genuino said.

“The thrust now is not casino gaming but total local entertainment. In the global arena, only 25 percent of the revenues of gaming destinations such as Las Vegas come from actual gambling,” he said.