Despite vociferous statements from Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte calling for an end to casino gambling in the country of 103.3 million, Galaxy Entertainment Group, the Hong Kong stock exchange listed Chinese casino giant, is confident that its plans for a new $500 million integrated casino resort on the idyllic island of Boracay will go ahead as planned.
Galaxy Entertainment Group Chairman Lui Che Woo, in a recent interview with CNBC, revealed the details of the Boracay resort as well as the company’s plans to pick up one of the three integrated casino resort licenses now on offer in Japan.
Galaxy had long been lobbying Philippine officials in hopes of obtaining permission for the Boracay resort and unveiled plans for the $500 million complex with its local partner Leisure & Resorts World Corp last year.
Earlier this year the company succeeded in picking up a provisional license to begin development from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), the country’s gambling regulator, as well as a defined 23-hectare piece of land. That came just days before President Duterte made the decision to close Boracay island completely for 6-months, citing open sewers spewing human waste into the crystalline blue waters at an alarming rate and the need for an immediate environmental clean-up.
Duterte’s anti-casino rhetoric
As part of his purge of the island, Duterte also went on an anti-gambling trade, saying that despite the issuing of the provisional license no new casinos would be built in the Philippines, including Boracay island.
While the president’s populist anti-casino rhetoric has been heating up, the developers believe the project is still on track to open in 2021. Leisure & Resorts World has stated that it was able to complete the preliminary work it needed to do on the site prior to the island’s closure.
Katrina Nepomuceno, Leisure & Resorts World vice president for legal affairs said, “It is actually very helpful that the DENR is doing all of these the investigations, testing… We are actually getting feedback from the government about what’s in the island, identifying where the problematic areas are. It is actually helping us to build our plans. So hopefully when it reopens we can move along,”
The president’s office, however, has hit back, with spokesman for the president Harry Roque issuing a statement that the president would never allow a casino on Boracay and that casino operators shouldn’t try to test “the political will of the President on the issue of casinos in Boracay,” pointing out that the license issued so far is only provisional.
Despite the fast flying rhetoric, Mr. Lui remains confident the casino will go forward as planned. Speaking to CNBC he explained that the integrated casino resort would target high-end players largely from the Asia-Pacific region, Much as Macau focuses on Chinese whales. At the same time, he added that there would also be a strong focus on non-gambling related activities and offerings.
Mr. Lui went on in the interview to state that Japan was clearly also in the company’s sights as a high-end market and “we will cater to this segment, but the focus will not just be on gaming. We have always said we need more non-gaming than gaming businesses.”
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