Casino profit boosts Philippines' global gaming hub ambitions

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 19 2015 06:11 PM | Updated as of Mar 20 2015 02:11 AM

MANILA - A Philippine mega-casino reported Thursday its first annual profit on the back of half a billion dollars in revenues, strengthening the Southeast Asian nation's bid to become one of the world's biggest gambling hubs.

Bloomberry Resorts, which operates the Solaire Resort and Casino, said it posted a P4.072-billion ($91-million) net profit in 2014, compared with a loss of P1.315 billion in the previous year.

Revenues doubled to P24.122 billion from 2013.

Solaire, owned by Filipino billionaire and port magnate Enrique Razon, opened in March 2013, the first of four billion-dollar casinos planned on a glittering strip fronting Manila Bay dubbed Entertainment City.

The huge casinos are the centrepiece of the Philippines' campaign to rival Las Vegas and Singapore as one of the world's biggest gambling destinations, after the Chinese enclave of Macau, the industry's capital.

Analysts said Solaire's nearly half billion dollars in revenue, in only its second year, showed the Philippines could achieve its goal.

"There's nowhere to go but up, considering the attractiveness of this sunrise industry.... we've just started to attract the high rollers," First Grade Holdings managing director Astro del Castillo told AFP.

A second mammoth casino called City of Dreams, a joint venture between Australian billionaire James Packer and Lawrence Ho, son of Macau gambling mogul Stanley Ho, opened at Entertainment City in February.

Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada has targeted a 2016 opening for his casino, while Filipino tycoon Andrew Tan and Malaysian billionaire Lim Kok Thay will open theirs in 2018.

The largest American casino operator, Caesars Entertainment, said in October that it was seeking a licence to build a fifth mega-casino in the Philippines.

Gaming revenue in the Philippines reached $2.5 billion last year, according to the nation's industry regulator.

The Philippines is targeting $7 billion, roughly the levels of Singapore and Las Vegas, by 2020, according to Cristino Naguiat, who chairs the country's gaming board.

Razon, the Philippines' third richest man according to Forbes Magazine, said in a statement that he was "elated" by the results and would work to surpass the numbers.

He announced this week he had struck deals to open casinos in South Korea, his first overseas gaming venture.

Bloomberry shares closed 2.96 percent higher at 10.44 pesos on Thursday.

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