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Belle, Harrah's in advanced stage of talks for casino project

By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) Updated August 02, 2010 12:00
MANILA, Philippines - The owners of Belle Corp. and Leisure & Resorts World Corp. are in an advanced stage of negotiations with US-based Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., to build the country’s largest casino complex, estimated to cost around $350 million.
On the sidelines of LRWC’s annual stockholders’ meeting Friday, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, said Harrah’s – the world’s largest provider of branded casino entertainment –has an edge over the two other casino players it is in talks with and it is hoped an agreement would be signed in August or September. “Among the three groups we’re talking to, the one with Harrah’s has moved to the advanced negotiation level,” he said.
Harrah’s which generates around $10.8 billion in yearly revenue, owns and operates about 50 casinos under the Bally’s, Caesars, 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.
Owned by Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group, Harrah’s secured leadership position in the global gaming industry after it acquired rival Caesars Entertainment for $9.4 billion in 2005.   It also acquired Planet Hollywood’s Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, adding to the group’s plethora of locations on the Las Vegas strip
Benitez, former president and majority shareholder of LRWC, said the two other entities have a presence in Asia but refused to name them. LRWC was tapped by Belle to run the casino as the holder of the management contract for the gaming component of the project.
He said the multi-billion peso casino which will rise on a 6.2 hectare property near the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, will be nearly two times bigger than Resorts World Manila, a flagship integrated entertainment project of Alliance Global Group Inc. and the Genting Group of Malaysia.
The gaming operation will be developed in three phases over a five-year period. The first phase will include the construction of the casino with around 100 VIP suites to cater to high-rollers. Two 15-storey hotel towers of 500 rooms with a Planet Hollywood theme will eventually be built to complement the casino operations.
Benitez said the Las Vegas style casino, which is targeted for opening in the third quarter of 2011, will feature 1,500 slot machines and 250 tables.
Belle’s entry into the gaming market was formalized last year following its acquisition of Premium Leisure and Amusement Inc. from SM Commercial Properties Inc. The PLAI holds a franchise from Pagcor for the operation of a casino complex in the 800-hectare Bagong Nayong Pilipino Manila Bay Entertainment City.
Together with the SM Group, Belle has committed to inject $1 billion into the project over a 25-year period.
The SM Group will be in charge of non-gaming developments which include hotels, a sports arena, museum, and an oceanarium.
Aside from its real estate projects, which include its crown jewel Tagaytay Highands, Belle also generates earnings from Pacific Online Corp. the exclusive online lottery systems provider in Visayas and Mindanao.
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