The Philippines is about to see another influx of casinos via its freeport zone authority, the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).
Secretary Raul L. Lambino, administrator and chief executive of CEZA, confirmed last week that four “big” integrated resort and casino operators from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea have submitted letters of intent to establish integrated resorts in the northern part of the Philippines, the Manila Bulletin reported.
Of the four gaming companies, the Freeport authority has signed a memorandum of understanding with “a big Chinese proponent,” which will invest $500 million to develop Fuga Island into an integrated resort and casino, according to CEZA Senior Deputy Administrator Raymundo Roquero. Fuga Island is the second northernmost island group of the Philippines and falls under CEZA jurisdiction.
Plans for the 10,000-hectare island include the construction of a casino, a hotel, a theme park, theatres, and a $1-million peCr unit villa, among others. CEZA officials said the Chinese investor wants to replicate South Korea’s Jeju Island development in Fuga.
The remaining three gaming firms are planning to develop hotel and casino projects within the 55,000-hectare CEZA property, according to freeport authority. The companies are reportedly looking at making initial investments of $100 million each.
“They (the four companies) will start with a hotel and casino, then they will expand to theme parks. They will also build high-end villas, so their investments might reach $500 million,” Roquero said, according to the Manila Times.
CEZA, the former top online gambling licensing body of the Philippines, has diversified into casinos and cryptocurrencies after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte clipped its licensing power in 2017. Previously, many CEZA-licensed operators chose to base their business process outsourcing (BPO) and live dealer operations in urban areas. However, that came to an end when state gambling regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) ordered all Philippine-based online operators to get a new Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) license.
With its recent revelation, CEZA could draw the ire of PAGCOR given that the state regulator has issued a moratorium blocking the establishment of new integrated resorts in the country. Lambino, however, pointed out that CEZA is an independent body with the authority to issue operating licenses to any investor, including gaming companies.