Investors bank on boom Filipino casinos

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
Investors bank on boom Filipino casinos

Casinos are mostly closed in the Philippines right now, but a couple of different groups are hoping their investments will return great dividends when the sector can return.

Calvin Ayre reports Suntrust Home Developers, a firm owned by Suncity Group Holdings, has invested into a casino hotel plan for Manilla, while PH Resorts Group Holdings is looking forward to their Cebu-area casino opening in 2022, but teases it could be sooner.

Suntrust have announced they will be borrowing US$147.8 million from Suncity to invest in the Westside City Project.

The loan, bearing 5.25 per cent interest annually, will allow Suntrust to increase its 51 per cent ownership of Fortune Noble to 74.42 per cent.

It does so through a subscription of convertible bonds to be issued by the Philippine entity.

Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, who has a controlling interest in Suncity, has previously said they hope to see a ground breaking ceremony on the project “soon”.

Those comments came during a June 11 filing, so they likely took into account the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The Westside City Project, when completed, is expected to have a 5-star hotel with 400 rooms, 400 gaming tables and 1200 slot machines.

PH Resorts Group Holdings, owned by Filipino tycoon Dennis Uy, has announced that despite the pandemic, construction of their resort continues on pace for a second quarter opening in 2022.

“Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we are diligently working on the completion of the first phase of Emerald Bay.

“Our team continues working to ensure to reduce project costs without sacrificing quality.

“Our focus is getting Emerald Bay to open on time without cutting corners,” PH Resorts chief operating officer Jose Angle Sueiro said a July 22 shareholders meeting.

While the first phase of the resort is expected to be completed by their due date, the management team has teased that they hope it could be ready by the end of 2021.

Once complete, the first phase of Emerald Bay will have 122 gambling tables, 600 electronic gaming machines and 270 hotel room bays.

In a statement, Uy confirmed his confidence in the Philippines tourism and gambling industry once this pandemic is over.

“We remain very committed to the long-term growth story of tourism and gaming in the Philippines.

“While many challenges remain, we are confident of overcoming them as we see some recovery by the time the first phase of Emerald Bay is completed and opened to the public.”

New casino in booming Filipino market

The surge of gaming in the Philippines has shown no signs of letting up, with the Subic Bay Yacht Club, located in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone on the western coastline holding a soft opening for its new boutique casino recently.

Asgam reported in November that the casino forms a central feature of the newly renovated Yacht Club which, at a cost of US$10 million, is targeting Asia’s growing yachting and boating community.

“Subic is a safe haven in the boating world, and we have mega yachts coming in on a weekly and monthly basis to use Subic Bay as their base,” chief executive officer and president of Volare Grandezza, Manual Antonio Sequeira – one of the partner firms in the property’s casino operations said.

“We have everything from Russian mega-yachts measuring 200 metres and above to mega-ships coming in from China – the smallest being 3,800 people and the biggest 5,200 guests, which is a huge market.

“So we saw an opportunity that this Yacht Club would be a great base to host a casino. We are positioning ourselves very much as a boutique casino, and we are only the second yacht club in the world to have a casino after Hobart.”

The new casino offers impressive views of the serenity of Subic Bay and opened last Monday with eight tables and 169 slot machines, but expects to grow to 43 gaming tables in operation by December, including roulette, pai gow, baccarat, blackjack and pontoon.

In-house junket operations will launch in 20202, and there are also plans to work with international junket operators across Asia.

One of only two casinos in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Subic Bay Yacht Club enjoys the same tax benefits as the nearby Clark Freeport Zone and sees itself as a unique alternative to the growing casino industry in Clark, whose primary target market is Koreans looking for a golfing getaway.

Subic offers three golf courses of its own and is just 45 minutes from Clark by car, but also sees its waterside location as a competitive advantage.

“The growing market in Asia of people boating and yachting will bring people here,” Mr Sequeira said.

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