Asia’s GEM Gaming Tourism and Investments Congress was held last month in Manila. Highlighted by a conference and trade show, Asia’s GEM is used by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) as a way to promote tourism in the country.
As with the previous two years, much attention at Asia’s GEM was paid to PAGCOR’s Entertainment City, which is a 40-hectare plot of land on the shores of Manila Harbor that will host four integrated resorts. With three of the projects already spoken for, questions about progress at the site had been raised.
PAGCOR President and COO Rafael “Butch” Francisco wanted to allay those fears. During a panel discussion on gaming in the Philippines, three representatives of the bidders appeared to commit once again to the project. Alliance Global Group, Inc. President Kingson Sian, Aruze Manila President Mikio Tanji and SM Hotel Corporation President Merrill F. Yu all agreed the project will go forward.
A quick glance at the land, however, demonstrates that Francisco’s prediction of an opening of the first phase of the project may be too ambitious. While he says a 2010 opening will occur, little has been accomplished beyond some preparation of the land.
And with a Philippine presidential election slated for May 2010, it seems unlikely that much will happen between now and then. A new president means new leadership at PAGCOR, since both Francisco and Chairman Efriam Genuino are political appointees serving at the whim of the president.
Genuino told the Philippine Star that construction will begin in the second quarter of this year and will create 200,000 jobs. Each developer is required to invest at least $1 billion in its facilities.
He said gaming would be just a small part of Entertainment City.
“Only 3 percent of the entire investments are geared toward gaming; the majority are tourist attractions,” says Genuino.
PAGCOR has pitched all the major gaming companies to take part in Entertainment City, including Wynn Resorts, Harrah’s Entertainment, MGM Mirage, Crown Casinos and others. While some are intrigued, none made a commitment.
At this year’s Asia’s GEM, Harrah’s President of Asia Michael Chen continued the discussions and said the development satisfied most of the points Harrah’s considers when weighing developments worldwide.
The conference also hosted the fourth annual meeting of the Euro-Asian Cooperation on Gaming. The group is designed to promote the gaming industry in Europe and Asia.