It’s one of the most intriguing potential developments in the gaming industry. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation-Pagcor, the state-owned corporation that runs the gaming industry in the Philippines-is planning a four-casino/integrated resort development on Manila Bay, and the participants are still a mystery.
It was thought one mystery was cleared up last month when the South China Post reported that James Packer, part owner of Melco Crown and owner of Bloombury Investments, a British Virgin Islands-based company, had reached an agreement with Pagcor to develop a US$1.5 billion hotel casino complex in the Manila Bay development.
The paper cited Pagcor President and COO Rafael Butch Francisco as the source for the report.
Bloombury had been confirmed as one of four international companies interested in applying for licenses to operate the complexes, the three others being Aruze of Japan, Genting of Malaysia’s Star Cruises and the Philippines’ SM Corp.
Dodie King, a spokesman for Pagcor, said he expected a deal will be signed with Packer soon.
But Packer, through Crown Casinos in Australia, denied that any agreement had been reached or was about to be reached.
To begin with, the company said, any financial arrangements between Crown and Bloombury had yet to be finalized. The statement continued that neither Crown nor Packer was close to finalizing any deal with Pagcor, and seemed to suggest that the report could torpedo any deal. Any deal, the release said, would include only “minimal equity on the part of Crown.”
Crown owns the Crown Casino Resort in Melbourne, Australia, and is part owner of Melco Crown, which operates the highly successful Crown Casino in Macau. Packer and partner Lawrence Ho, the principal in Melco, are interested in expanding their casino empire beyond Macau, and recently bought Cannery Casinos in Las Vegas, which includes the Meadows racino outside of Pittsburgh, and also owns almost 20 percent of the Fontainebleau, which will open in 2010 on the Las Vegas Strip.
Pagcor recently had its charter renewed by the government, giving it responsibility for development of the 120-hectare parcel on Manila Bay. Francisco believes it will be one of the gaming hubs of Asia, joining Macau and Singapore as “must-see” attractions for Asian players.
Kazuo Okada is the head of Aruze, and is an equal partner with Steve Wynn in Wynn Resorts. While Okada claims to be going it alone, Wynn could emerge as a player in Manila. Also interested, reports say, are SJM, the company controlled by Macau gaming magnate Stanley Ho, and MGM Mirage.