NUSTAR_The Boardwalk

The NUSTAR Resort & Casino opened at the weekend on Cebu island in the Philippines, becoming the first integrated resort for the popular holiday destination.

The resort will feature three hotel towers. Tower 1 will be ultra high-end, while Tower 2 will be five star and Tower 3 for the MICE market. It will also feature a commercial and retail center that will bring in luxury retail and food options, a first for Cebu. 

According to the resort’s website, the casino floor area totals 21,000 square meters and will eventually feature 1,500 gaming machines and 500 tables. The opening had been originally planned for March, but was slightly delayed due to the spread of the Omicron variant. 

Casinos in the Philippines resumed operations at full capacity since the beginning of March, while the borders opened to international travelers in mid-February. 

NUSTAR, which is owned by Universal Hotels & Resorts, will be the first upscale IR on Cebu, which is already home to about seven gaming facilities. Most are small VIP clubs, with the largest existing property being, Waterfront in Cebu City, which is run by the Philippines Amusement & Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR). 

Cebu is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines. It was second to Manila in terms of direct foreign arrivals by air in 2019, accounting for 20 percent of total arrivals, while the city was one of the most visited in the Philippines, according to the Department of Tourism.

Visitor arrivals to the Philippines rose 15.2 percent to 8.2 million that year. Koreans made up the biggest segment of the market accounting for 1.9 million arrivals, although China was hot on its heels at 1.7 million and was the fastest growing, up 38.5 percent on the year.

The Philippines is forecast to be one of the best-performing gaming markets in Asia this year.

Gross gambling revenue (GGR) in the Philippines’ Entertainment City properties was up 21 percent in the first two months of the year and the casinos are on track to surpass the $2.2 billion generated in 2017. 

If this pace continues, Entertainment City should be back at its peak levels by the end of next year, driven by mass and premium mass business, predicts Eric Coskun, director of casino projects at IGamiX Management & Consulting. 

Gross gambling revenue from all forms of gambling in the Philippines rose 14.4 percent in 2021, with 4Q21 showing the strongest performance of the year as operating restrictions eased.

Total GGR came in at PHP113.09 billion ($2.19 billion), according to figures from the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR). That is still less than half of the PHP256.49 billion recorded in 2019, but shows a stronger recovery than some other markets, such as Macau where GGR only reached 30 percent of the pre-pandemic total.