SkyCity eyes Manila for possible casino expansion

sky-city-entertainment-philippinesSkyCity Entertainment Group is ditching plans to build a casino in Gold Coast, Australia because of a lack of certainty on whether a casino would be part of a proposed plan to build wider cruise ship terminal in the tourism hotspot. But with that door closing, the New Zealand-based casino outfit is opening a new one with an eye towards expanding its business overseas.

One international destination SkyCity is keeping a close eye on is Manila and SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison took a lot of people by surprise when he announced the company’s interest in establishing a presence there.

“We’re staying close to the Philippines and monitoring that space,” Morrison said last week  after the company posted its annual financial results.

There are no immediate plans for the company to move forward with its intentions for Manila because all four casino licenses doled out by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation as part of its Entertainment City project are all accounted for. But one of those licenses, specifically the one belonging to Kazuo Okada’s Universal Entertainment could still be revoked if the company is found guilty of violating Philippine law.

That could open a slot that SkyCity could well take advantage of. But whether that happens or not is still an entirely different matter, although from the way Morrison sounds, it looks like the company is ready to give the Philippines a go if the opportunity presents itself.

“We are always looking at ways to grow the business beyond our existing markets and proactively review new opportunities to create shareholder value,” Morrison was also quoted as saying back in February. “The Philippines is recognized as one of the most exciting new emerging gaming markets in Asia.”

While there’s no denying the Philippines’ attempt at staking a bigger claim of the Asian gambling market, a foreign company like SkyCity entering into that marketplace is a lot easier said than done. Philippine policy explicitly says that no foreign company can have a majority stake in any business in the country, which means that the New Zealand-based casino must have a consortium arrangement with a local company with the latter controlling majority of the business relative to what an international company is required to have under the law.

Even if Universal gets to keep its license and build its planned $2-billion integrated resort and casino in the Philippines, the success of Entertainment City will likely compel Pagcor to create more licenses for other foreign casino operators to take full advantage of. If and when that time comes, it’s starting to sound like SkyCity Entertainment Group will be the first ones in line to secure a new license.

A lot of ‘ifs’, we know, but don’t sleep on the Philippines emerging as a legitimate casino destination for locals and foreigners alike. That’s what SkyCity is banking on and when the time’s right that more licenses are going to be offered, it’s going to be ready to pounce.