Melco Crown, Belle Corp seal Belle Grande deal; Bloomberry gets financing

philippines-entertainment-city-casino-dealsThis Saturday sees the official launch of Solaire Manila, the first of four resort-casinos set to open in the Phillipines’ Entertainment City development in Manila. Solaire COO Michael French told AFP that the project’s first phase – featuring 300 gaming tables, 1,200 slots, 500 hotel rooms, seven restaurants and 2,000 parking spots – will provide customers with “an entertainment and gaming experience that doesn’t exist in the Philippines today. This raises the scale, the excitement and the … glamor… It will be like going to Las Vegas.”

Cristino Naguiat, the chief of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), says Entertainment City will be like Vegas and then some, at least, in terms of revenue generation. Once all four Entertainment City projects are up and running, Naguiat expects the country’s annual gaming revenue will top $10b, well outpacing Las Vegas’ $6b tally. “We will beat Las Vegas … It’s a no-brainer. The big market is here in Asia.” Naguiat is quick to point out that Philippine gaming taxes compare quite favorably with other local players: 27% of winnings for most gamblers, but just 15% for high-rollers, compared to 40% in Macau.

Solaire is backed by Bloomberry Resorts Corp, which is owned by local billionaire Enrique Razon. Bloomberry recently won a coveted elevation to the Philippine Stock Exchange Index, and the perks are already flowing in. BusinessWorld reports that Bloomberry has secured P14.3b (US $352.5m) in financing from three banks – BDO Unibank, China Banking Corp. and Philippine National Bank – to help finance the construction of Solaire’s Phase 1A, which will feature an additional 300 hotel rooms, a shopping center with 40 luxury brand outlets, a 2k-seat theater, a night club and more restaurants.

Another of Entertainment City’s projects took a step forward on Wednesday. Henry Sy’s Belle Corporation has announced it has finally sealed its deal with Melco Crown Entertainment to develop the Belle Grande casino-resort. The two parties first announced their intention to strike a deal last July and agreed to the broad strokes of their pact in October. Belle Corp signed the deal via its wholly owned subsidiary Premium Leisure and Amusement Inc., while three Melco subsidiaries – MCE Leisure (Philippines) Corp., MCE Holdings (Philippines) Corp. and MCE Holdings No. 2 (Philippines) Corp. – signed the other side of the contract.

While Melco Crown will operate all Belle Grande’s facilities, each party will contribute equally to the expected $1b cost of developing the project. In December, Melco Crown acquired local outfit Manchester International Holdings Unlimited as a vehicle to manage and operate the Belle Grande, which will be Melco Crown’s first casino property outside of Macau. Melco Crown’s top execs – Crown Ltd. boss James Packer and Melco International Development’s Lawrence Ho – will be in Manila on Friday to formally conclude the deal. The Belle Grande is expected to open in Q4 2013.