Australian billionaire James Packer and Macau gambling tycoon Lawrence Ho (何猷龍) are teaming up with the Philippines’ richest family to develop a US$1 billion casino in Manila, the Philippine partner said yesterday.
The Belle casino will form part of a huge gambling development, which the government hopes will turn the city into the world’s No. 2 gaming destination, ahead of Singapore and Las Vegas, and behind only Macau.
SM Investments Corp, which is controlled by the Henry Sy (施至成) family, told the Philippine Stock Exchange its affiliate, Belle Corp, signed an agreement with Melco Crown Entertainment (MCE) to form a consortium to develop the project.
“Subject to [regulatory] requirements, Belle and MCE plan to create a US$1 billion premiere integrated resort facility and enter into implementing and definitive agreements within the next two months,” the disclosure said.
Melco Crown, which operates a Macau casino, confirmed the signing of a consortium agreement on Thursday in a disclosure to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
It said its unit, MPEL Projects, expects to invest up to US$580 million over the course of the project, or more than half its entire cost.
Melco Crown is a joint venture between Melco International Development Ltd of Ho, son of Macau gaming mogul Stanley Ho (何鴻燊), and Packer’s Crown Ltd of Australia.
Belle holds one of four licenses handed out by the Philippine government to build a casino worth at least US$1 billion each at a site on Manila Bay called Entertainment City.
Gaming regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) has also granted licenses to Malaysia’s Genting Group, Bloomberry Resorts Corp and another casino backed by Japanese gaming equipment supplier Kazuo Okada.
With the completion of the US$4 billion Entertainment City project by 2016, Philippine gaming revenues are expected to draw level with current No. 2 Singapore’s revenues of about US$7 billion, PAGCOR chief Cristino Naguiat said in a recent interview.
Asia is poised to eclipse the US as the world’s biggest gaming market next year, powered by the region’s growing economic prosperity and fondness for gambling, PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a report in December.
Gambling revenue in Asia is forecast to more than double from US$34.3 billion in 2010 to US$79.3 billion in 2015, it said.