The top two Asian gambling destinations, Singapore and Macau, have a new competitor: Manila, capital city of the Philippines. The city recently opened one of three brand new casino resorts which developers have been diligently planning for the area. Solaire Casino and Resort, situated on Manila Bay, greeted its first customers in March 2013. The concept of Solaire was created by Bloomberry Resorts Corp, a successful development company that is traded on the Philippine Stock Exchange. Once all three casinos have been opened in Manila, developers are hoping the "entertainment city" they've created will draw in wealthy VIP gamblers from across the globe.
Solaire Casino and Resort: Luxury Vacation Destination
Solaire is a high-end vacation destination with accommodations starting at $220 USD per night. Waterfront villas are available to visitors, as are an array of luxury suites and guest rooms. Amenities include swimming pools and hot tubs, private chefs, 15 restaurants, and entertainment facilities. All the traditional gambling options are available at Solaire, too: slot machines, poker, blackjack, roulette, and the Asian-preferred game of baccarat. Although the Philippines already has its fair share of established casino resorts, Solaire is poised to become the destination of choice for wealthier Filipino citizens and visitors to the region.
A Competitor for Manila's Resorts World
Solaire competes not only with Macau and Singapore, but with another Philippine facility called Resorts World Manila, or RWM. Before the birth of Solaire, RWM was the chosen hot spot for wealthy gamblers in the country. Since its opening in 2010, RWM has touted itself as the country's first "integrated tourist hub," a place that provides gaming options as well as entertainment, shopping, and a host of fine dining choices. Situated across from the international airport, RWM began attracting patrons immediately after it opened and quickly established itself as the gaming hall of choice on the islands. Today, however, experts predict that the resort will fall from grace, losing the top 30 percent of its patrons to the new kid on the block, Solaire.
Naysayers: No Place for the Philippines in Casino VIP Market
Filipino officials hope that Solaire, along with RWM and the other planned luxury resorts, will elevate their country's status in the world casino VIP market. It is no secret that the deluxe resorts are intended to lure in VIP gamblers from China and other nations, thereby categorizing the Philippinesas a world-class destination. While hopefuls have projected a positive outlook for the "entertainment city," some naysayers have expressed doubts that this small-time contender will ever advance to top dog status in the casino world.
Michael Paladino, a senior CEO at Fitch Ratings, is one of the naysayers. Paladino doubts that the islands could ever reach the glorified status of Macau and Singapore for several reasons. First of all, the infrastructure of the Philippines is disjointed and underdeveloped, making it difficult for unfamiliar visitors to navigate through the territory's numerous islands. Second, it's a two-hour plane ride from China to Manila, whereas the ever-popular Macau stands shoulder-to-shoulder with mainland China. Third, casinos in the Philippines are required to pay 30 percent in taxes to the government, making it difficult for a fledgling business to get ahead, even a VIP gambling business like Solaire that caters to the ultra-wealthy.
Other Casino Projects May Help Elevate the Philippines to Third Best
Even if Solaire is unable to outperform the casino resorts in Macau and Singapore, officials hope it will help raise the Philippines to the status of third best Asian gambling location in the world. Solaire is not, after all, the only casino project in the works in that country. In 2014, Macau's Melco Crown Entertainment will partner with Henry Sy, one of the area's most wealthy businessmen, in the creation of a new luxury resort called the Belle Grand Manila (read more). A three-way partnership between Filipino billionaire Andrew Tan, fellow countryman and John Gokongwei, and Universal Entertainment chair Kazuo Okada is also in the works for a future Manila development.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation
All wagering activities in the Philippines are overseen by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, or PAGCOR. This organization works with the government to ensure and maintain the integrity and quality of the Filipino gaming experience. The revenue brought in by PAGCOR is second only to that brought in by the country's Tax and Customs Authority. Stimulating tourism and promoting the islands as a premier world gambling destination are two of PAGCOR's major goals. The group reports directly to the president of the country, Benigno Aquino III.
About Competitor Singapore
Singapore is home to two booming casinos, Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands. Although Singapore houses only two facilities, they attract a large number of wealthy Chinese gamblers, making the country one of the top Asian VIP gambling destinations at this time.
About Competitor Macau
Macau is a city of long-standing gambling authority. Adjacent to China, it houses over 30 thriving casinos and draws a steady stream wealthy Chinese gamblers, making it the most successful gambling city on the planet. Recently, the Chinese government opened up some gambling tests outside of Macau.
About the Philippines
The Philippines is comprised of a series of more than 7,000 islands and is the seventh largest country of Asia. It is a democratic nation with a president that observes the separation of church and state, much like the United States. Approximately 97 million people call these islands home. The climate in the Philippines is tropical and hot; the more mountainous islands boast glorious tropical rainforests. The economy used to be primarily agricultural in nature, but the country has changed in recent years into a manufacturer-based industrial nation.