Philippines PAGCOR Approves 5-year Hiatus on Manila Casino Permits
Manila was the focus of PAGCORs attention during an address on the ASEAN Gaming Summit’s opening day in the Philippine capital this week. PAGCOR chair Andrea Domingo addressed reporters and news outlets, explaining the organization had come to the conclusion that a freeze be placed on new casino permits being issued in the capital. Manila currently operates four casino properties, with a fifth expected to open doors as soon as next year.
The move was said to protect those investors who took a risk on the market in its developing stages. These investors were reportedly required to put up as much as $1 billion to secure licensing and construction permits in the Manila Entertainment City region.
While the freeze applies to Manila-based casino operations, PAGCOR has made it clear that the organization will continue accepting applications for proposed projects elsewhere in the country. Developments in external gaming projects include the expansion of offshore gaming ventures, as well as $500 million and $300 million integrated resort properties in Cebu and Mundaue Islands, respectively.
Government Creates Space
In other news, the Philippine Government has decided to proceed with its plan to offload the 46 state-owned and operated casino properties throughout the country. Philippines’ Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III will spearhead the efforts, the announcement of which received no opposition from PAGCOR this week.
PAGCOR Chair Andrea Domingo told reporters at the ASEAN Gaming Summit that,
“I am not opposing it… If it is going to happen, it will happen,” adding, “We had no chance [before] to discuss it with the DOF [Department of Finance] as we were busy collecting revenues as much as we can. But we have to discuss it.”
The full scope of government casino privatization is expected to conclude in late 2017. However, Domingo admits this goalpost will likely be pushed back, commenting that such processes “take a very long time.”
Now that the plans have been finalized, it is up to PAGCOR to assess the properties’ value. Domingo told news outlets at the Summit that,
“We have not started pricing each of the casinos. Others are big and others are small… It still has to be decided,” Domingo said. “During that time, I can’t sit back and wait for the privatization. We’ll work on our own casinos, and we make all them profitable.”
Overall projections on the Philippine gaming industry are very optimistic, with a reported gross income of nearly $1.1 billion in 2016. The number is a near 17% jump over 2015’s income of $936 million. PAGCOR has set projections high for 2017, with revenue for the first two months of the year already nearly $2 billion.
Bloomberry Resorts executives anticipate that the Philippine casino industry could surpass Singapore in the coming years, citing a substantial improvement in tourism volume and infrastructure. The Philippines have enjoyed a particular increase in Chinese-based tourism, likely due to warming ties between Beijing and President Duterte.
When asked to what the group attributed such substantial growth, Domingo responded,
“We have a very safe country to go to, we have lovely people, hospitable people, very strong president who does what he preaches and makes good his promises.”
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