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Philippines – PAGCOR open to new wave of provincial casinos

By - 9 February 2016

The Philippines’ casino regulator has said that the market could open up further with new provincial casino licences potentially up for grabs.

Cristino Naguiat, Chairman of PAGCOR, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming, said he ‘is open to casinos built outside Manila.’

“There are areas which I think are very ripe for a casino,” Mr. Naguiat said. “The agency is open to giving out a casino license if it can help boost economic activity and if the people in the area want it. We’re developing a template to ensure that no one would be granted a license unless an investment commitment is made. The minimum investment could vary depending on the location.”

The minimum investment for foreign companies building casinos outside of Manila has been set at US$300m, less than a third of the minimum investment set for casinos in Manila’s Entertainment City of $1bn.

Mr. Naguiat added that the minimum investment for casinos outside of Manila wouldn’t be decided until PAGCOR has its new President in place in June. PAGCOR operates 13 casinos in the country, 10 of which are outside Manila. Thunderbird Resorts operates two of the biggest Philippine casinos outside of Manila with one Poro Point in the northern La Union province and another Rizal in a mountain resort near the capital.

The driver for the addition of more casinos is clearly gaming tax. The Philippines is trying to take on Macau and Singapore in the revenue stakes. GGR from Philippine casinos is being tipped to double from this year’s estimate of US$4bn by 2025 once all four projects are operating,

Mr. Naguiat added, “Gaming revenue from government-run and privately-owned properties could reach 45bn pesos and 90bn pesos, respectively, in 2016. That represents an eight per cent increase from a combined 125bn pesos last year.”

Jonathan Ravelas, Chief Market Strategist at BDO Unibank, said: “They are trying to replicate Entertainment City on a smaller scale. This will create competitors. Operators in Entertainment City will have to be on their toes because if they are complacent it’s not impossible that some of the traffic will go to these provincial casinos if the properties are world class.”

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