By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) Updated November 30, 2010 12:00
MANILA, Philippines - Belle Corp. may likely tap a Macau-based gaming firm as partner for its planned $1-billion entertainment complex to be built along a reclaimed portion of Manila Bay.
Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez, majority owner of Leisure & Resorts World Corp. (LRWC), said they are in discussions with a Macau-based casino operator to build the country’s largest casino complex and expects to conclude a deal before the end of the year.
LRWC is the local partner for the gaming component of Belle’s multibillion-peso integrated resort project.
Benitez refused to divulge the identity of the Macau-based casino firm, saying Belle/LRWC shall make the necessary announcement as soon as negotiations are completed.
Under the plan, the world-class integrated resort will feature hotels, condotels, serviced apartments, swimming pools, spa, retail shops, restaurants, theaters, indoor and outdoor theme park, parking and meeting facilities.
Although Las Vegas still has the reputation, Macau is now believed to be the world’s biggest center for gambling, having taken over from its American counterpart statistically since 2006.
Belle’s casino complex, estimated to cost around $350 million, is targeted for opening in the third quarter of 2011, featuring 1,500 slot machines and 250 tables. It will be developed in three phases over a five-year period.
The first phase will comprise the casino with around 100 VIP suites and two 15-story hotel towers of 500 rooms.
Together with the SM Group, Belle has committed to plunk in $1 billion into the project over a 25-year period. The SM Group will provide the entertainment facilities which will include hotels, a sports arena, a museum and an oceanarium.
The project, when completed, is expected to boost Belle’s cashflow. Belle’s crown jewel to date is its flagship 1,500-hectare Tagaytay Highlands.
Belle, majority owned by the Sy family, also generates equity earnings from Pacific Online Corp., the exclusive online lottery systems provider in the Visayas and Mindanao, as well as from upscale property firm Highlands Prime.