Betting big on gaming
EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - February 15, 2018 - 12:00am

There’s a lot to look forward to in the country’s gaming industry in the next five years with many of the country’s tycoons joining the bandwagon.

I was surprised to hear from Pagcor chairman and CEO Andrea Domingo that tycoons John Gokongwei and Manny Villar are now betting big on gaming while Dennis Uy is already working on his second casino license.

Gokongwei plans to open his integrated casino resort in Cebu in 2022, Domingo shared with reporters over tea in London last week on the sidelines of a global gaming conference.

Villar, meanwhile, is eyeing to transform a 1,000-hectare lot in Dasmarinas, Cavite into a high-end integrated casino resort as well.

Uy, the Davao-based businessman who is a known supporter of President Duterte, is working on his second casino in Clark, Domingo said.

This after he already bagged a casino license for his Emerald Resort in Cebu.

Last December, Big John, as Mr. Gokongwei is known, already visited the site in Cebu – an 18-hectare Kawit property known as the South Road Properties.

There are many more local and foreign players that are entering the gaming scene including Millennium casino of the Hong Kong-based Asian Gaming Group.

Duterte has ordered a moratorium on new casinos, but fortunately for Gokongwei, Villar and Uy, the order came after they already filed their applications. Gokongwei, in fact, already got the approval of Pagcor.

It’s no surprise that they managed to beat Duterte’s moratorium on new casinos. They are all known to be savvy in business. They always know when to strike. And given their track records, I am sure their respective casino projects would be at par with world class gaming resorts.

Indeed, we can’t blame them for striking while the iron is hot. They are, after all, businessmen and gaming has no doubt become a lucrative business. The industry is growing and high rollers from China are turning to the Philippines after a crackdown in Macau in the past three years.

The good news is that the gaming industry translates to billions of revenues for the government. Pagcor, for instance, remitted to the national government P1.18 billion in dividends last year. There’s also no denying that gaming – whether online or brick-and-mortar – is creating thousands of jobs and boosting related industries such as the property sector.

The downside, of course, is when gaming becomes a vice and when the vice becomes an addiction and people start losing their heads over their losses. Sometimes, families are torn apart because of a member’s gambling habits.

I hope the benefits of gaming will far outweigh its downside. Pagcor, as regulator, will play a big part in ensuring this.

The Ortigas family saga

Members of the landed Ortigas clan are again in the news lately just when the public thought that the family feud had already died down.

Industry sources said sisters Michelle and Francesca Litton Ortigas are still bent on recovering their “rightful share of the inheritance“ left by their grandparents.

The Ortigas family patriarch Francisco and matriach Remedios were among the largest shareholders of the Ortigas and Co. Limited Partnership (OCLP), a giant real estate company behind Greenhills Shopping Center, Ortigas Center, Tiendesitas, and other prime locations such as Frontera Verde, Valle Verde, and Greenmeadows.

But the two sisters feel they are being “robbed of their share of the inheritance” due to their father, the late Jose Miranda Ortigas.

Their father is one of the six children of Francisco and Remedios Ortigas. He died in a car accident on May 2, 1977.

In a recent statement, the sisters said they would present evidence before the San Juan City Regional Trial Court to contest their family’s estate inventory which they deemed was grossly understated.

According to the sisters, there will be hearings today and March for the administrator, Fernando Ortigas, to present the inventory of estate properties and the supporting evidence. There will also be hearings on April 26, May 10, and May 24 this year.

The sisters allege their aunts and uncles are depriving them of a share in the inheritance of the estate of their grandfather.

When the Ortigas patriarch passed away in 2003, his five surviving children purportedly submitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Registry of Deeds an extrajudicial settlement agreement to close the estate.

But the sisters claimed they were not included in the agreement.

The sisters, in the statement, claim that in 2015, their uncles and aunts sold 39.65 percent of their shares in OCLP Holdings Inc. to the SM Group for P15.4 billion.

They claimed in court documents that some of those shares sold by their uncles and aunts should have been part of the estate.

I wonder how this will affect the ongoing developments in Ortigas by Ortigas & Co., a partnership between the SM Group and Ayala Land. The company has grand plans for the different parcels of land all over the Ortigas and adjacent areas – from residential to commercial projects.

In 2014, the SM Group and Ayala Land Inc made their entry to the company by partnering with the Ortigas family.

For now, how this will end is still anybody’s guess.

Iris Gonzales’ e-mail address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com.

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