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Belle group to build hotels before casinos

By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) Updated August 04, 2011 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The consortium of Belle Corp. and Leisure Resorts World Corp. (LRWC) said it would comply with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.’s new policy requiring major investors in the multi-billion-peso Entertainment City project along Roxas Boulevard to build hotel facilities prior to the opening of their casinos.

“We fully support the initiatives and programs of the government and the Pagcor board. We are forging ahead with plans for more than 800 rooms and will deliver the world-class facility envisioned to attract international investors into our country and provide thousands of jobs for our workforce,” said Willy N. Ocier, vice chairman of Belle.

Ocier issued this statement in response to Pagcor’s announcement that it was standing by its decision to require casino proponents to put up hotel facilities before they are allowed to launch their gaming operations.

“We need to quickly establish our presence in the Asian gaming space or risk being overtaken by Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam,” he said.

Ocier said construction of the $750-million Belle Grande Manila Bay is on track and plans are underway for the grand opening in the first quarter of 2013.

“We will surprise everyone,” Ocier said, debunking claims the group is not ready to go full blast on its casino venture.

LRWC, led by its chairman and president Reynaldo Bantug, said the soft opening of the casino, slated in the second quarter of 2012, has not changed and that they foresee no other obstacles that would delay the launch of the group’s casino operations.

LRWC shareholder, Capital Managers & Advisors Inc., through its owner Eusebio Tanco, said it is bullish on the gaming industry with casino moguls stepping up their presence in Asia to boost tourism. The shift towards Asia is growing stronger with European and American firms eyeing to establish a footprint here.

Vantage Equities Inc., led by former Philippine Stock Exchange chairman Wilson Sy, believes the future of Asia’s gaming boom looks rosy given the success of the casino industry in Macau and Singapore. The company acquired 5.11 percent of LRWC, equivalent to 51.14 million shares at P7.50 per share.

Casinos in Macau have seen revenues rise to never-before seen levels.

“Looking at casino stocks in Macau and Singapore which have increased tremendously as well as the good performance of Resorts World Manila, we are very excited about the prospects of the Philippine gaming industry. We think this would help boost our country’s tourism. We are investing for the long haul,” Sy said.

Ciaran Carruthers, president and chief executive of Asia Pacific Gaming Management and Consultancy, said foot traffic in Belle Grande Manila Bay is forecast to reach 15,000 to 18,000 a day when it soft opens next year.

Carruthers said the projection was relatively conservative given the resort’s proximity to Mall of Asia.

Asia Pacific Gaming, a group managing five casinos in Macau with 20 years of experience dealing with VIP casino operations in Asia, will run the casino.

The planned world-class integrated resort will have a total gaming area of 19,626 square meters, with 350 gaming tables and 1,900 slot machines. The first floor will cater to the mass market while over 6,000 sqm of space will cater to VIPs.

Belle Grande Manila Bay will provide guests with a full suite of amenities including six hotel towers with approximately 1,000 rooms targeted for opening by the fourth quarter of 2013.

Of the six towers, one will be an all-suites hotel targeted toward the VIP market and junket gaming customers and another will be a four or five-star hotel targeted towards the mass market gaming customers with 159 rooms.

The remaining four will comprise condotel towers with a total of 466 units (Belle Grande Suites). The units may be sold to investors and placed in a pool to be managed by the company/hotel operator. Buyers can avail of 8-10 free nights at the resort in addition to a share of the rentals received.

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