Growth seen slowing as competition rises

The Philippines is expected to be one of the strongest growing gaming markets in Asia again in 2017, driven by another major opening in Manila’s Entertainment City, however growth is expected to slow over the longer term in the face of greater regional competition.

According to Fitch Ratings, the opening of Universal Entertainment’s $2.4 billion Okada Manila should help drive a high single-digit increase in gaming revenue in the country this year. But the firm sees signs the market is maturing, especially in the greater Manila area.

“We expect high single-digit gross gaming revenues in 2017 driven by the opening of the $2.4 billion Okada Manila and the continued economic growth in the Philippines. Longer term, competition from Macau and other Asia Pacific countries will restrain growth,” Fitch said, noting that junket-sourced VIP business makes up about one-third of gross gaming revenues.

The Okada Manila will be the third resort to open in Entertainment City and at 44 hectares will be the largest to date. The operator has pushed back its grand opening until the end of March. It joins Melco Crown Entertainment’s City of Dreams Manila and Bloomberry Resorts’ Solaire. A fourth IR from Travellers International Group will round out the offering in the zone, although its opening has been delayed to 2020.

Both Melco and Bloomberry reported strong gains in adjusted EBITDA and revenue for their most recent reporting period. City of Dreams posted a near 80 percent gain in Q4 revenue, while Bloomberry’s overall revenue for Q3 was up 11 percent, with its mass table drop jumping 61 percent. Travellers also reported a robust 14 percent gain in gross gaming revenue from its existing Resorts World Manila property, despite concern of cannibalization from the newer Entertainment City resorts.

New licenses?

Bloomberry has said it is interested in building a second casino in the greater Manila area, planning a $418 million investment in Quezon City. Aside from this, Joe Pisano, CEO of Jade Gaming Group says he doesn’t expect market regulator Pagcor to issue new licenses for smaller properties around the capital.

The Philippines is one of the few markets in Asia where locals are allowed to gamble, which is a key part of the attraction. However, tourism arrivals have also been steadily growing and the government is targeting a doubling of the current numbers by the end of 2022.

The country had 5.96 million arrivals in 2016, just shy of its six million target, but an 11.3 percent gain from the prior year.

Countries from Asia made up 60.56 percent of the total visitors or 3,613,725 arrivals. East Asia filled more than half of total volume with 3,040,860 arrivals, while the remaining fragments came from ASEAN with 461,698 arrivals and South Asia with 111,167 arrivals.

Korea was the biggest source market last year, but China rose to the third position amidst a thaw in political relations between Manila and Beijing.

China arrivals jumped 37.65 percent and tourism officials are targeting 3 million Chinese arrivals this year. On a visit to Beijing in October, tourism officials from the two countries signed a Memorandum of Agreement on Tourism Cooperation.

Improved air connectivity with China is also expected to boost arrivals, with several direct flights to different regions of the country launched last year.

Since November, Laoag has been welcoming around 400 Chinese tourists per week through China Eastern Airlines’ Guangzhou-Laoag chartered flights. Philippine Airlines (PAL) also took its maiden flight from the Changi International Airport to Cebu in December.

Meridien told to cease numbers game

Meridien Vista Gaming Corp. has been asked to immediately stop its numbers game operations, as it is only authorized to operate within areas covered by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA). The crackdown comes as part of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s latest campaign to tackle the growing illegal numbers game operations which have been siphoning revenue away from the government-sanctioned Small Town Lottery.

Casinos near inclusion in AML laws

The Philippines House of Representatives has moved closer to including casinos as part of its Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), according to media reports. In February, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, who chairs the committee on banks and financial intermediaries said his panel has “agreed in principle to endorse the inclusion of casinos in the law.” A small group has been tasked to consolidate three related bills, with the main issue to be resolved being the threshold that would trigger the filing of a suspicious transaction report.

As a result of improved infrastructure and transport links, regional casinos are reporting healthy growth.

“Outside of the metro many areas have invested heavily in infrastructure on roads and airports facilities and this has driven both business and tourism to provincial destinations,” said David Lawrence, vice president of gaming operations at Widus International. “There have been several headlines that the new administration is restricting the gaming industry but for most operators this is an indication of Pagcor’s focus on compliance of regulations and in the long run this is a good thing.”

Widus operates a casino in the Clark Freeport Zone, which was formerly home to a U.S. air base. There are another three casinos operating in the area, though Pagcor has recently shut down two properties.

Lawrence said improvements in transport links had boosted visitation both from the surrounding areas and from international markets. As a result, the group is expanding its property. “Tourists are attracted to this are due to the safe, relaxed and clean environment and offerings such as golf, scenery,” he said. “Here in Widus we have seized the opportunities these changes offer. The hotel and casino was expanding in 2014 and in late 2015 we announced our intention to invest U$100 million, this plan includes a $60 million flagship Marriott hotel which broke ground last year and will open in the second half of 2018.”

“The remaining commitment will be invested in facilities such as a water park and casino expansion. Knowing your market and investing appropriately are the keys as the Philippine market grows and we intend to continue to lead this growth,” he said.

Further regional expansion is expected in the Philippines, though Pisano says there will still be a minimum investment requirement of $300 million.


The Philippine’s largest integrated resort Okada Manila has pushed back the date of its grand opening to the end of March.

Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment, operators of the $2.4 billion casino resort held a soft opening on Dec. 21, and officially commenced casino operations on Dec. 30.

“Since that time the construction focus has been on the VIP casino floors, restaurants, world-class fountains and other facilities in preparation for the grand opening,” said the property in its press statement.

The resort will feature two Y-shaped hotel towers with a total of 993 rooms, a 37,464 square-meter dancing fountain, a casino floor with about 500 table games and 3,000 electronic gaming machines, a 90,000 square-feet nightclub and beach club entertainment complex. It will also have an 8,409 square-meter retail promenade, a world-class spa and 21 self-operated restaurants for casual, buffet, and international dining.


The $1.3 billion City of Dreams Manila is owned by Belle Corp and Melco Crown Entertainment’s local unit. At the end of Q4, the resort was operating 272 tables and and 1,686

Gaming machines. The table games win per unit per day was $4,576. In Q4 revenue surged to $144.7 million from $80.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2015, while adjusted EBITDA gained to $50.2 million from $15.5 million. Rolling chip volume totaled $2.1 billion for the fourth quarter of 2016 versus US$1.3 billion, while the mass market table games drop increased to $149.0 million for the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with $106.3 million.

City of Dreams Manila has six hotel towers with approximately 950 rooms in aggregate, including VIP and five-star luxury rooms and high-end boutique hotel rooms, a wide selection of restaurants and food & beverage outlets, a 4,612.44 square meters family entertainment center in collaboration with Dreamworks Animation, a live performance stage, two international nightclubs and a multi-level car park. It includes an approximately 260 room Crown Towers hotel, Hyatt City of Dreams Manila, a 365 room hotel managed by Hyatt International Corporation and Asia’s first Nobu Hotel with 321 rooms.


Travellers International Hotel Group, a joint venture between Genting Hong Kong and Alliance Global, is the owner and operator of Resorts World Manila. The company posted a 153 percent gain in net income in Q3, helped by a 14.2 percent rise in GGR to P6.2 billion. The non-gaming businesses, which include hotel, F&B, and other revenues, contributed about P859.2 million in the third quarter, increasing by 2 percent year on year.

The hotel room count for the group’s three hotels (Maxims Hotel, Remington Hotel, and Marriott Hotel Manila) remains at 1,226. Phase 2 at RWM is nearing completion with the addition of 228 rooms in the Marriott West Wing in Q4. Phase 3, which will consist of three hotels, Hilton Manila, Sheraton Manila Hotel, and Maxims II, will be completed by 2018. It will also include an additional gaming area, new retail spaces and six basement parking decks. PAGCOR has approved new gaming capacity of 420 gaming tables and 4,148 gaming machines at the resort.

Travellers says its expansion plans are “in full swing.” A bridge linking the complex to the international airport is expected to open in the first half of 2017.


Bloomberry Resorts posted record results in the nine months through to end Sept., with gross gaming revenues at its Solaire Resort & Casino up 14 percent to a record P28 billion, while non-gaming revenue grew 24 percent to P1.7 billion. Net profit for the period was P1.6 billion, a significant upswing from a P1.5 billion net loss in the previous year.

Solaire is a 16-hectare gaming and integrated resort complex along Asean Avenue in Parañaque City. The Bay Tower of Solaire consists of a casino with an aggregate gaming floor area of approximately 18,500 square meters (including approximately 6,000 square meters of exclusive VIP gaming areas), with approximately 1,400 slot machines, 295 gaming tables and 88 electronic table games. Bay Tower has 488 hotel rooms and 15 specialty restaurants. Contiguous to the existing Solaire Resort and Casino, the Sky tower consists of a 312 all-suite hotel, additional ten VIP gaming salons with 66 gaming tables and 223 slot machines. It also includes a certified 1,760-seat lyric theatre.

The company has said that it plans a second resort in Quezon City with an investment of $418 million. It has also previously expressed an interest in bidding for a casino license in Japan. A deal to exit its operations on Jeju island in South Korea through a sale to Iao Kun Holdings recently fell through.