By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) Updated March 29, 2010 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines - Belle Corp., an upscale leisure developer and gaming firm controlled by the family of retail tycoon Henry Sy, is entering the high roller end of the gambling market in a big way reportedly through a partnership with Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., the world’s largest provider of branded casino entertainment.
Sources said Belle is in talks with Harrah’s to manage the planned P14- billion casino complex that will rise on a 6.2-hectare property along the reclaimed Manila Bay. The P14 billion is part of the total P46 billion investment commitment given by Belle and the SM Group to the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corp., which is spearheading the development of a mini-Las Vegas in Parañaque City.
When asked to comment on this, Belle chairman Willy Ocier said the company is not at liberty to say anything yet. “We can not disclose yet,” he said.
Belle is handling the gaming operations of the project such as the setting up of a casino and other gaming facilities while the SM Group will be providing the entertainment facilities which include hotels, a sports arena, museum, and an oceanarium.
With yearly revenues of around $10.8 billion, Harrah’s owns and operates about 50 casinos under the Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s, Horseshoe, and Rio brandnames, primarily in the US and the United Kingdom. It also owns the London Clubs International family of casinos and the World Series of Poker.
Since its beginning in Reno, Nevada on Oct. 30, 1937 as a small bingo parlor, Harrah’s has grown through development of new properties, expansions and acquisitions, and now operates casinos on four continents. Owned by Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group, Harrah’s was listed on the American Stock Exchange in 1972.
Harrah’s became the world’s number one gaming company when it acquired rival Caesars Entertainment for $9.4 billion in 2005. Just last month, Harrah’s has acquired Planet Hollywood’s Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, adding to the company’s plethora of locations on the Las Vegas strip
Sources said Belle is also reportedly teaming up with publicly-listed Leisure & Resorts World Corp. to provide other gaming facilities.
LRWC provides professional bingo gaming through Bingo Bonanza Corp. It also owns First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corp. (FCLRC), which has an existing license agreement with the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) to develop, operate and conduct Internet and gaming enterprises and facilities in the Cagayan Special Economic Zone Freeport.
FCLRC receives and processes applications for and issues interactive gaming licenses as well as regulates and monitors all operators of internet gaming in the Cagayan Special Economic Zone Freeport. LRWC also owns 30 percent of Binondo Leisure Resort Inc., a company engaged in hotel and recreation business.
The SM-Belle project includes the already-developed section spanning about 300 hectares that contains the sprawling Mall of Asia complex. It forms part of the multi-billion dollar Nayong Pilipino Entertainment City, which is being converted into a gambler’s haven of slot machines, roulette wheels and card tables.
Aside from casinos and hotes, the Nayong Pilipino Entertainment City will house an integrated resort with a world-class theme park, residential areas, shopping malls, fine dining restaurants, and other leisure activities.
When completed, it is expected to boost tourist arrivals in the country to over three million annually, generate 450,000 new jobs and dramatically increase government earnings.
Aside from the SM group, other investors in the multi-billion dollar project are Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group and Alliance Global Group Inc. of tycoon Andrew Tan.
In its recent report on global gaming, PricewaterhouseCoppers identified Asia-Pacific as the industry’s fastest growth market with revenues seen hitting $37.2 billion in 2012.