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Pagcor might nod new IR licences in coming years: chairman

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2024-06-11

Pagcor might nod new IR licences in coming years: chairman

The head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) says the agency might approve new licences in that nation for integrated resorts (IRs) containing a casino. “I can see that in the next four years, we might be approving one or two more licences,” Alejandro Tengco said in comments to GGRAsia.

Mr Tengco (pictured), chairman and chief executive of the country’s gaming regulator, said a number of new casino properties was slated to launch in the coming years, which would help boost the industry’s gross gaming revenues and cement the Philippines as one of Asia’s top gambling destinations.

He was speaking in an interview with GGRAsia on Thursday at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia in Macau.

In late May, Bloomberry Resorts Corp opened its US$1.0-billion Solaire Resort North at Vertis, Quezon City, north of Manila.

At least six new gaming projects are in the pipeline, including a casino resort planned by Bloomberry for Paniman, a coastal community in Cavite, about 66 kilometres (41 miles) southwest of Metro Manila.

Other schemes include a casino hotel at Westside City within the Entertainment City casino zone in Manila; a project in Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga province; and a casino resort in Mactan, Cebu.

There are also two gaming-related complexes planned for the island of Boracay, according to Mr Tengco. One is being developed by Andrew Tan’s Global Estate Resorts Inc. Mr Tan is linked to Alliance Global Group Inc, a company that has investment – via Travellers International Hotel Group Inc – in the Newport World Resorts casino complex in Manila.

The second project in Boracay “will be a 65-35 [percent] joint venture between Pagcor and the operator,” outlined the agency’s chairman. He did not provide more details.

Mr Tengco also said he had received assurances regarding the opening of the casino hotel at Westside City. The gaming property is being developed by Philippines-listed Suntrust Resort Holdings Inc, a unit of LET Group Holdings Ltd, using the casino licence of Travellers International.

“I am very confident that the project will open, primarily because they’re using Travellers’ licence,” stated the top regulator.

“I had a dialogue with the top management of Travellers, and I got assurances that they would definitely make sure that the project will be completed,” he added.

Hong Kong-listed LET Group said recently that the operations at the casino hotel at Westside City would start in “the first quarter of 2025”.

GGR balance

The Philippine gaming sector – including non-casino operations – produced gross gaming revenue (GGR) of PHP81.70 billion (US$1.42 billion) in the first quarter of 2024, up 18.5 percent from the prior-year quarter.

The e-Games segment brought in PHP22.5 billion in GGR for the three months to March 31, or “more than six times” the PHP3.5 billion recorded in the opening quarter of 2023.

The country’s licensed commercial-sector casinos remained the “biggest contributor” to first-quarter GGR, at PHP49.7 billion, but the figure was down 8.2 percent year-on-year, according to official data.

“While the [GGR] numbers in the land-based operations have plateaued,” the trajectory in the electronic gaming sector “has been unprecedented,” observed Mr Tengco.

“So, hopefully, the growth in the electronic gaming segment’s GGR will balance the decline in the land-based sector,” he told GGRAsia. “It might even offset, or more than offset, such a decline.”

Mr Tengco said he does not believe that some patrons “are shying away from land-based operations,” but suggested that a “convenience factor” might be helping boost GGR in the online gaming segment. That is because “players can access the same games they are used to playing in physical casinos, from the convenience of their homes,” he explained.

He added: “When it comes to land-based operations, one of the things that is really hurting us is the fact that we do not have many tourists coming from China.”

“Do I see the numbers coming back? It’ll all depend on what will truly happen with the relations between the Philippines and China,” said Mr Tengco.

If the bilateral relations normalise, “we will see an influx of Chinese tourists, which will definitely bring up the revenues for land-based operations, including for Casino Filipino venues,” he noted.

The Philippines received just above 2.4 million foreign tourists in the first five months of 2024, up 16.3 percent from a year earlier, according to data from the nation’s Department of Tourism. China, previously the top source market for the Philippines, provided about 168,628 visitors in the first five months this year, representing about 6.6 percent of all arrivals.

But the Philippine authorities are also looking beyond the Chinese market to maintain its growth and sustainability, affirmed Mr Tengco.

The country’s gaming industry recorded GGR of PHP285.27 billion for full-year 2023, and Pagcor expects the market to reach PHP336.38 billion this year.




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