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Philippine casino sees 'thrill' factor attracting Asian gamblers
[MANILA] PH Resorts Group expects its US$465 million Emerald Bay casino in central Philippines to break even within seven years from its opening late next year.
The casino that's being built on Mactan island in Cebu province is counting on a "strong recovery" in the local market and a gradual return of international high rollers a year from now, chief operating officer Jose Sueiro said. He expects the nation's gaming industry to surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2022, counting on a vaccine to aid recovery.
"Human emotions, they don't change," Mr Sueiro said in an interview. "People who love the thrill of being in the casino, that particular feeling to be on the tables and the slot machines, will keep coming."
PH Resorts, owned by businessman Dennis Uy, is on a 10-day trading suspension until Nov 4. after a share sale on Oct 28 that raised 756 million pesos (S$21.3 million).
A seven-year casino monopoly extended by the Lapu-Lapu city government will help Emerald Bay achieve break even in the period, Mr Sueiro said. With a "unique" location by the beach and facilities on a par with casinos in Manila and Macau, about 50 million people living in central and southern Philippines are an immediate potential market, he added.
"A seven-year break-even period is a bit long, but this takes into account its smaller gaming capacity and that it's opening in phases," Rachelle Cruz, an analyst at AP Securities, said. "International travel will also take time to recover."
SEEKING HIGH ROLLERS
Access to local players is critical as the casino builds a rolodex of mass premium and VIP clients, who will provide half of Emerald Bay's income, Mr Sueiro said. Talks are already underway with as many as 10 junket operators across Asia, with Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia among markets being eyed to diversify its international base away from China's gamblers.
The Cebu casino could track the 20 per cent annual growth in Manila's gaming revenue in the past decade, Mr Sueiro said, which was driven by the opening of four integrated casino resorts. Casinos are "resilient" and it's not a gamble to say the market will bounce back from the pandemic.
"The market is there. It's a sure thing," Mr Sueiro said. "The desire of people to come back to the casinos, to enjoy their baccarat, the roulette and slot machines, that hasn't changed."