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Philippines aims for no 2 gaming berth: Is it doable?

| By iGB Editorial Team | Reading Time: 3 minutes
The Philippine gaming regulator claims the country can displace Singapore as the world’s number two gaming destination, and do it as early as 2025, writes Marjorie Preston. Is this the real thing? Is this just fantasy?
Philippines gaming

The head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) says that the country is in striking distance of Singapore as second in gaming revenue behind Macau.

In a 2 July interview with Bloomberg, Pagcor chairman and CEO Alejandro Tengco said, “If Singapore doesn’t expand, it will plateau. Don’t be surprised if next year we will surpass them.”

He was referring to Singapore’s gaming duopoly. Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands hold all the cards until at least 2030. In 2022, resident operators Genting Singapore and Sands China agreed to invest an additional $9bn in non-gaming attractions at the integrated resorts (IRs) to maintain that exclusivity.

In bricks and mortar alone, Philippines has bragging rights. The country has dozens of casinos, large and small, spread across the country and more in the pipeline.

However, Singapore generates an estimated $6bn in gross gaming revenue (GGR) per year with just two massive IRs. Last year, it took 76 casinos and gaming halls for the Philippines to generate $4.8bn.

More casinos opening in the Philippines

Tengco says the revenue gap could close with new inventory. Bloombery Resorts Corp’s five-star, billion-dollar Solaire North, in Quezon City, opened in May, with 200 gaming tables and thousands of slot machines. At the ribbon-cutting, Tengco said the sister property of Solaire in Manila’s Entertainment City “marks a new era not only for the Philippine gaming industry but also for the tourism industry”.

New casinos are also planned for Clark, Boracay and Cebu, where Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc (TRLEI), operator of Okada Manila, may acquire PH Resorts’ stalled Emerald City casino project.

Collectively, those new resorts could help propel global tourism and help the country reach its goal of 7.7 million international visitors in 2024 (just short of the 8.26 million recorded in 2019). As of April, almost two million international tourists had visited the Philippines. Of those, 94% were foreigners and the rest, Filipinos living overseas.

Chinese visitation has slowed, but Korean is increasing

According to the Philippine Star, citing department of tourism figures, while Chinese visitation has slowed, Koreans are picking up the slack. Visitors from Korea account for more than 27% of the overall visitor base. Among casino visitors, Koreans also lead the pack, followed by travellers from Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. Tengco says new IRs will “hopefully neutralise the decline in Chinese tourist arrivals”. At the same time, Singapore has seen an increase in Chinese visitation, thanks to a mutual visa-free policy agreement that took effect in February.

In addition, the Philippines hopes to attract more foreign investment by strengthening its anti-money laundering (AML) protocols and getting off the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list of countries whose porous banking systems make them more vulnerable to financial crimes. Casinos are of special concern to FATF and the government’s anti-money laundering council. AMLC chief Matthew David has said that the country will “exit the grey list this year”.

Resorts World expanding in Singapore

Back in Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa is poised to begin a $5bn expansion, RWS 2.0, that will add a new 700-key waterfront resort. Ongoing projects include Minion Land at Universal Studios Singapore and the Singapore Oceanarium, which should be ready to open early next year. Marina Bay Sands is planning a $3.3bn expansion that will include a fourth hotel tower, expanded gaming floor, more MICE facilities and a 15,000-seat entertainment arena.

With all these changes in the works, Rob Goldstein, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp, says Singapore could reach $7bn in GGR this year and $10bn in the near future – again leaving the Philippines in the dust.

As gaming analyst Christopher Khoo told Asia Gaming Brief, “Competition will certainly keep everyone on their toes.”

Written by Marjorie Preston

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