Macau 'gambling prince' bets on Manila casino

by Lois Calderon, ABS-CBN News Channel

Posted at Oct 09 2013 11:09 PM | Updated as of Oct 10 2013 11:52 PM

MANILA - Melco Crown Entertainment is rebranding the casino resort that will rise in PAGCOR City in the middle of next year.

It was widely known as "Belle Grande Manila" after the name of Melco's local partner, Henry Sy's Belle Corp.

That's until today, when the casino instead inherits the name of a Macau pioneer.

Lawrence Ho, a son of gambling tycoon Stanley Ho, came to town to unveil "The City of Dreams Manila".

It's a namesake of the casino-resort he built in Macau in his first few years as CEO of Melco Crown -- the company that ruled Macau's gaming business for four decades.

The Manila casino is the first conquest outside Macau by the younger Ho.

"Gambling prince" is a title that Ho said he's not comfortable with.

"No. We're just trying to work hard and we're very lucky to be in Macau. And we're very excited to be in Manila and building something here," he said.

Ho has raised the casino's budget by $60 million more to $680 million.

The casino will have 365 gaming tables and over 3,000 slot machines.

But the 36-year-old Ho said he does not gamble.

Lawrence Ho knows the odds in the casino business.

It's the "house" that always wins.

He is betting that revenues in the Philippine gaming industry will more than double to $4 billion in the next two or three years.

Ho said he might be flying in high rollers from Macau via private jets and junkets to lift business.

Industry revenues will be divided between Melco and its three rivals -- Enrique Razon's Bloomberry, Andrew Tan and Genting's Resorts World, and the Okada group.

"We want a higher-than-proportional share of that. So if you look at being 3 or 4 operators, we want to be higher than our proportional share," Ho said.

Shares in Melco Crown Philippines, Belle Grande, and Leisure Resorts, which owns a minority stake in the casino venture, all rose in Wednesday trade.