Businessman Dennis Uy, founder of Davao-based Phoenix Petroleum and a known ally of Duterte, for instance, has secured a license from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to build Lapu-Lapu Leisure Mactan, a $300-million integrated casino resort in Cebu, the first of its kind outside Metro Manila.
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Investors betting big on gambling
Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - May 8, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Local and foreign investors are betting big on gambling – from building sprawling integrated casino resorts to scrambling for small-time lottery licenses – despite President Duterte’s crackdown on online gaming.

Duterte’s pivot to China has paved the way for more mainland Chinese players visiting the country, promising rosy prospects for the gaming sector, industry players said.

Businessman Dennis Uy, founder of Davao-based Phoenix Petroleum and a known ally of Duterte, for instance, has secured a license from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to build Lapu-Lapu Leisure Mactan, a $300-million integrated casino resort in Cebu, the first of its kind outside Metro Manila.

Uy said the project would boost the region’s economy and create employment opportunities for locals.

“Lapu-Lapu Leisure Mactan aims to become a key economic growth driver in Central Visayas by creating thousands of jobs and small-business opportunities aside from supporting the government’s community development programs,” he said. 

Businessman Joseph Calata, chairman of agribusiness company Calata Corp., meanwhile, is in talks with a new partner for his $1.3-billion casino project in the same province after one of the original investors backed out.

“There’s some delay. One investor backed out but we are in talks with another one,” Calata told The STAR in a recent interview.

He said Calata Corp. was supposed to launch the project in January but is now eyeing to do a groundbreaking “later in the year.”

In August last year, Calata announced it teamed up with American firms Sino-America Gaming Investment Group LLC (Sino-America) and Macau Resources Group Ltd. (MRG) to create a real estate and investment trust (REIT) for the gaming resort, dubbed Mactan Leisure City in Mactan, Cebu.

The project will have three hotels, a casino and entertainment complex, a yacht club and commercial component.

In addition, another foreign casino operator is also in talks with a local player to expand in the Philippines, industry sources said.

Just last month, MJC Investments Corp., a joint venture between the Reynos’ Manila Jockey Club and a group of Hong Kong strategic investors, formally opened Winford Hotel & Casino, a hotel, gaming and entertainment project within Manila’s Greater Chinatown in Sta. Cruz, Manila.

Enrique Razon’s Solaire Resort and Casino is also building a P20-billion resort in Quezon City, his second casino after the Entertainment City.

Razon said since Duterte’s trip to Beijing last year, which yielded $24 billion in investment pledges, Chinese tourists have been visiting the Philippines.

“We are seeing more visits from China,” Razon said in a recent interview.

In Pampanga, South Korean construction firm Donggwang Construction Co. Ltd. (DCC.) is developing the $400-million Clark SunValley Resorts and Country Club project at the Clark Freeport Zone.

There is no crackdown on new gaming licenses as long as it is outside the 100-hectare Entertainment City of Pagcor in Parañaque.

From giant casinos, the government’s small time lottery (STL), a grass-roots based lottery operated by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), is also aggressively expanding.

Gaming tycoon Charlie “Atong” Ang said government officials, members of the Philippine Military Academy’s Sandigan Class 1982 and other personalities with links to the government including Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II’s brother Ogie Aguirre, are scrambling for STL franchises in Pangasinan, Albay and Camarines Norte, among others.

Aguirre has denied his brother was applying for an STL franchise.

PCSO chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz, who belongs to PMA Sandigan Class 1982, announced in January the expansion of STL operations in 56 areas nationwide from only 18 areas at present.

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