Why billionaires chose Manila for City of Dreams expansion

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Feb 02 2015 10:35 PM | Updated as of Feb 03 2015 06:35 AM

MANILA – Billionaires Lawrence Ho and James Packer officially opened City of Dreams Manila at the Entertainment City complex in Paranaque on Monday.

Ho and Packer are co-chairmen at Melco Crown Entertainment, the casino developer that brought City of Dreams to the Philippines.

The $1 billion-casino resort along Roxas Blvd. is the first City of Dreams outside Macau.

"Our vision was always to find greatest locations in Asia for integrated resorts. We've been very selective. After Macau, Manila is really the first place we decided to go into," Ho said in a press conference for the resort's grand opening.

Ho expressed confidence that the Philippine market will continue to grow in the coming years.

"Our philosophy is very simple, we want to build things that we are proud of, integrated resorts that will last over time and market must be big enough. Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies anywhere in the world. We are very lucky to be here. We think this market in terms of tourism, overall economy and consumer spending is consistently on the rise going forward," he said.

 

Packer, meanwhile, described City of Dreams Manila as a "world-class" integrated casino resort.

"I had high expectations, and the property has exceeded my highest expectations. I'm so proud to be here and I genuinely think that City of Dreams Manila is a world-class property," Packer said.

"I can see tourism growing hugely in the Philippines...I think it's true, I think you do have more fun in the Philippines," he added.

Clarence Chung, chairman of Melco Crown Philippines Resorts Corp., said the casino resort expects an average of around 15,000 visitors daily.

However, he noted that bulk of the revenues of City of Dreams Manila is not expected to come from gaming alone due to the various non-gaming activities inside the complex.

“The Philippine community go to good food, and enjoy themselves dancing and singing, that’s why we have the various amenities…Macau is more serious when the people play, here it is more relaxed,” he said at a separate press conference also held during the grand launch.

Chung added that City of Dreams Manila provides an additional site and a logical choice for gamers in Macau who fly to places like the US and Australia to play in casinos.

City of Dreams Manila was developed by MCE Leisure Philippines Corp. and SM Group's Belle Corp., and is managed and operated by Melco Crown's MCE Leisure Philippines.

The casino resort, which sits on a 6.2 hectare complex, had its soft opening in December, becoming the second facility to operate in Entertainment City after Bloomberry's Solaire.

To mark the grand launch, American artists Ne-Yo and Kelly Rowland as well as local singers Gary Valenciano, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Kyla, and Jed Madela performed.

Hollywood connection

City of Dreams Manila generated a lot of buzz after a Martin Scorsese-helmed trailer was released featuring Hollywood stars Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio.

In the promotional ad, the two actors were seen "competing" for a role at the casino resort.

The short ad was produced by Brett Ratner, a business partner of Packer at RatPac Entertainment.

According to Packer, he and Ho drew inspiration to enter the casino industry from Scorsese’s 1995 film “Casino.” The film also starred De Niro.

“In my view, both the movie business and the casino business, we sell emotion, we sell fun. We make people feel things…There’s always been a synergy” he said.

De Niro is also a co-owner of Nobu with celebrity chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa.

Aside from Nobu, City of Dreams Manila brings together hotel brands Crown and Hyatt, and leisure and lifestyle brands Pangaea Group and DreamWorks.

DreamWorks' first 'edutainment park'

One of the features of City of Dreams Manila is DreamPlay, the first education-based entertainment complex of DreamWorks Animation.

 

Joshua Wexler, the "chief executive of fun" at Pure Imagination Studios, said the Philippines is an ideal location for DreamPlay because of its partnership with Melco Crown and the friendliness of Filipinos.

"We have a great partner in Melco Crown and completely supportive of the vision and what we wanted to achieve. And also this is a wonderful community and a great place. We're excited to have it here," he told ABS-CBNnews.com.

DreamPlay allows children from ages 5 to 12 to roam around the interactive play space featuring characters from animated films "Kung Fu Panda," "Shrek," and "Madagascar."

The facility also offers themed-party rooms that can accommodate up to 70 people.

Wexler said the park has a capacity of around 1,200 people at any given time.

DreamPlay is expected to open before the middle of the year.