BUSINESS

Razon expects sunny days for Solaire Manila; pachinko firms buy golf courses

TAGs: bloomberry resorts corp, Enrique Razon Jr, entertainment city, Japan, pachinko, Philippines, Universal Entertainment

solaire-manila-japan-pachinko-golfBloomberry Resorts Corporation chairman/president Enrique Razon Jr., considered the third-richest man in the Philippines, is set to become number one – that is, his Solaire Resort & Casino will be the first of the four gaming joints being built in PAGCOR’s Entertainment City project in Manila Bay to open for business. Solaire is set to open in March 2013, and Razon is predicting big things for his casino and for the Philippines’ bid to become Asia’s next great gaming destination.

Razon told Channel News Asia that his home country had “more to offer than places like Macau … there’s something for everyone. That’s really what it has to end up as, not just gambling, which is what Macau is.” There’s also the human touch, in that “Filipino service is known globally. You just go to any first-class hotel in the Middle East or even in Macau and you run into Filipinos, and we’ve been able to get a lot of Filipinos coming back from Macau and Singapore to work in Solaire. This will be a game changer.”

But even if an Asian whale is solely fixated on gambling, Razon thinks the Philippines has the edge. “We have a lower gaming tax which can be used and translated into an advantage financially and attracting players from, say, China, Taiwan, Indonesia or Thailand.” Razon told Reuters that Bloomberry was in discussions with over two dozen junket operators to make sure VIPs knew they had regional options beyond Macau and Singapore. When Solaire opens it doors, its casino floor will feature 90 VIP gaming tables, 200 mass market tables and 1,200 slot machines.

Asked about the recent brouhaha over allegations of bribery involving Philippine gaming regulators and another of Entertainment City’s casino builders – Kazuo Okada, chairman of pachinko company Universal Entertainment – Razon took the high road. Noting that Okada was Japanese, Razon suggested he “maybe didn’t know exactly how to operate in the Philippines, but the administration now with President Aquino has created serious credibility on the corruption front.”

PACHINKO FIRMS TEE UP GOLF COURSE INVESTMENTS
While Okada is busy explaining his side of the bribery allegations to authorities in the Philippines (and suing Reuters for printing the allegations), pachinko companies in Japan are broadening their horizons by acquiring stakes in Japanese golf courses. The Daily Yomiuri said the golf course investments by pachinko giants Heiwa Corp., Sega Sammy Holdings Inc. and others were prompted by two goals. The first of these was to add alternate revenue streams to counteract a dropoff in the domestic pachinko business, which has seen revenues fall for eight consecutive years now. Pachinko revenues in 2011 are off 36% from their 2003 peak. The second aim was to establish these companies as full-fledged entertainment providers ahead of the country’s expected legalization of resort casinos.

An unnamed industry source told the Yomiuri that the pachinko industry was building its resort bona fides ahead of the legislation being passed, hoping to redefine themselves in the minds of the legislators who will (hopefully) soon be issuing a call for casino license applications. A Heiwa rep told the Yomiuri that it was studying the possibility of entering the casino business, while Sega Sammy is already planning to build a casino in South Korea, where Universal is also planning to put down roots. Universal says it will bring the experience it gains from operating casinos abroad back to Japan once the home territory finally passes the necessary legislation.

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