Okada forges $2 B casino jv with Gokongwei, Andrew Tan

By Mary Ann LL. Reyes, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 15 2012 09:52 AM | Updated as of Jul 16 2012 03:34 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Tycoons John Gokongwei and Andrew Tan have forged an agreement with Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada for a $2-billion project that will integrate gaming, commercial and residential operations at the Pagcor Entertainment City along Roxas Blvd.

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chairman and CEO Cristino Naguiat Jr. told The STAR that Tan’s group will handle the land development aspect of Okada’s Tiger Resorts project, one of four groups granted a license by Pagcor to operate a casino in the Entertainment City.

Okada’s project is worth $2 billion, and Gokongwei and Tan’s entry will translate to the two local groups owning 60 percent of the venture, and Okada, 40 percent. The project will have a casino as well as a residential and retail component.

Naguiat said the Tiger Resorts project, covering 40 hectares of the 100-hectare Entertainment City, will start operations at the end of 2014.

It was earlier reported that Gokongwei’s property arm, Robinson Land Corp., has offered to run the gaming and retail operations of the Tiger Resorts project, the biggest among the four licensees, in Entertainment City.

The other licensees include Bloomberry of port operator Enrique Razon, Belle Corp. together with Melco, and Resorts World, also owned by Tan.

Earlier reports revealed that the Gokongwei Group beat several local businesses, notably the Lopez Group, that vied to be a partner of Okada. The Lopezes own media giant ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. and property developer Rockwell Land.

Okada, also known as the pachinko king of Japan, broke ground on his casino in Entertainment City on Jan. 26, promising more than 2,000 guest rooms in three hotels.

On his visit to Manila in May, Okada predicted that the center of gravity of the global gaming industry would shift from Las Vegas to Asia, with the Philippines playing a significant part in attracting patrons from around the world.

“My dream is to create the best casino in the world here in the Philippines,” he said. “This is why I’m focusing on Philippine gaming – to make it the best in the world and to beat Wynn Resorts,” he said.

Tan, through his listed investment holding firm Alliance Global Group Inc., is also involved in another Entertainment City project, the $1.1-billion, 31-hectare Resorts World Bayshore project of Travellers International Hotel Group, his partnership with Genting Hong Kong Ltd.

Travellers International runs the wildly successful Resorts World, beside Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City.

Gokongwei’s foray into casinos is the latest in a string of billion-dollar transactions involving investors in Entertainment City.

In May, ports mogul Enrique Razon Jr. raised P8.85 billion from the stock market to bankroll the 16-hectare Solaire Manila luxury casino and hotel-resort project of his gaming firm, Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels Inc.

Solaire Manila is expected to be the first to open among the projects of the four licensees, with start of operations expected by the first quarter of 2013.

A few weeks ago, a consortium led by retail king Henry Sy took in Macau casino giant Melco Crown Entertainment – owned by Australian billionaire James Packer and Lawrence Ho, son of Macau gaming tycoon Stanley Ho – as a partner in its $1-billion, 8-hectare project.

The Belle-Melco project is scheduled to start end of 2013, according to Naguiat.

Pagcor has required all licensees to put in a minimum $1-billion investment in each integrated resort (to be spent before the term of President Aquino ends in 2016), build a minimum of 250,000 square meters of floor area and complete 800 hotel rooms with an average room area, of 40 square meters.