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Philippines wants to be the second-best gaming nation: Can it happen?

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Marjorie Preston reports that the Philippine Gaming regulator says the country could displace Singapore to become the second-most popular gaming destination in the world as soon as 2025. Does this really exist? This is just a fantasy, right?

According to the head of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), the Philippines is just behind Macau in terms of gaming revenues, and only a few miles away from Singapore.

Alejandro Tengco, chairman and CEO of Pagcor, said in an interview with Bloomberg on 2 July that “Singapore will plateau if it doesn’t grow.” Do not be surprised when we surpass them next year.

The duopoly in Singapore was the subject of his comment. Resorts World Sentosa & Marina Bay Sands have the upper hand until 2030. To maintain exclusivity, Sands China and Genting Singapore have agreed to spend an extra $9 billion in 2022 on non-gaming activities at integrated resorts.

Philippines can be proud of its bricks-and-mortar alone. There are dozens of large and smaller casinos spread throughout the Philippines, and there will be more.

Singapore, on the other hand, generates approximately $6 billion in gross gaming revenues (GGRs) each year from just two huge IRs. In the Philippines, $4.8 billion was generated by 76 gaming halls and casinos last year.

There are more casinos in the Philippines

Tengco claims that new inventory could help close the gap in revenue. Bloombery Resorts Corp.’s billion dollar, five-star Solaire North in Quezon City opened its doors in May. It has 200 gaming tables, and tens of thousands slot machines. Tengco, at the ribbon cutting ceremony said that the sister property to Solaire’s Entertainment City in Manila “marks not only a new age for the Philippine gambling industry but for the tourism sector”.

Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI), the operator of Okada Manila, is also planning new casinos for Clark, Boracay and Cebu. TRLEI may even acquire PH Resorts’ stalled Emerald City project.

These new resorts, taken together, could be a catalyst for global tourism. They can help to reach the 7.7 million target of international tourists in 2024. This is just a little bit less than the 8.26 millions recorded in 2019. In April 2019, almost 2 million foreign tourists visited the Philippines. 94% of those visitors were from abroad, and the remainder Filipinos.

Visitation by Chinese tourists has decreased, while that of Koreans is on the rise

The Philippine Star reported that, according to figures from the Department of Tourism, Chinese visitors have slowed down, but Koreans have stepped in. More than 27 percent of all visitors are from Korea. Koreans are also the most frequent casino guests, closely followed by visitors from Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore. Tengco claims that new IRs “hopefully will neutralise” the drop in Chinese tourists. Singapore, meanwhile, has experienced an increase in Chinese visitors thanks to the reciprocal visa-free agreement which took effect in Feb.

The Philippines also hopes to increase foreign investment through strengthening its anti money laundering (AML), and by getting off of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) gray list, which includes countries with porous banks that are more susceptible to financial crime. FATF, as well as the anti-money laundering government council, are particularly concerned about casinos. AMLC Chief Matthew David said the country would “exit greylist this year”.

Resorts World expands in Singapore

Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore is preparing to start a massive $5 billion expansion project, RWS 2.0. This will create a 700-room waterfront resort. Minion Land, at Universal Studios Singapore, and the Singapore Oceanarium are ongoing projects that should open in early 2019. Marina Bay Sands plans a $3.3bn extension that includes a fourth tower hotel, an expanded gaming floor and more MICE facilities. It will also include a 15-seater entertainment venue.

Rob Goldstein of Las Vegas Sands Corp. says that Singapore will reach GGR levels as high as $7bn this year, and even $10bn within the next few years, leaving the Philippines behind.

According to gaming analyst Christopher Khoo, Asia Gaming Brief: “Competition is sure to keep everyone on the edge.”

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