If International Entertainment Corp. (IEC) has its way, the Philippines could see a new integrated resort (IR) in the not-so-distant future. The Hong Kong-listed gaming investment firm has announced that it is preparing to send a request to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) for its Marina Square Properties Inc. (MSPI) subsidiary to be issued a provisional license for the operation of gambling activities. The company doesn’t mention any specific project details in its announcement.
The announcement (in pdf) explains that the license request will include plans to “expand and upgrade the current hotel premises, facilities and services by the establishment and operation of a casino and the development of an integrated resort in the City of Manila, Philippines.” Because it specifically mentions a “current hotel” and that MSPI has “submitted a written request” to Manila officials to recommend the project, the most likely candidate is the New Coast Hotel Manila, a property that includes space currently leased by PAGCOR for its own gaming operations. The hotel was formerly known as the New World Manila Bay Hotel.
IEC has most likely been gearing up for an IR in the Philippines for some time. It sold its ownership rights of the Wigan Athletic Football Club a couple of weeks ago, after having held onto the soccer team for about a year and a half, and is also big into live poker. It launched a partnership of sorts with The Stars Group a little more than two years ago that allowed it to host PokerStars-branded poker tournaments throughout Asia.
For IEC to be able to submit its license request to PAGCOR, it must first have support of government officials. This can be obtained through a “Letter of No Objection” and a “City Council Resolution,” which IEC is seeking through its request sent to Manila. If city officials provide the supporting documents, IEC can then forward its license application to PAGCOR for consideration. However, there are no guarantees that any of the steps will be met with approval.
The timing of the application process benefits IEC. Everyone is well aware of the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and recovery is going to take years, according to some analysts. While certain parts of the world have already begun to open their doors and start to rebuild their financial health, the Philippines aren’t able to move as quickly. President Rodrigo Duterte ordered Metro Manila to remain on lockdown until the end of June, prolonging the impact felt by COVID-19.
As a result, IEC has the potential to demonstrate strong financial support to Manila and the Philippines in general with its new project. It could lead to the creation of temporary construction jobs, as well as new permanent employment positions once the venue is up and running. However, as government officials have shown a certain degree of hesitation in expanding gambling operations in the country, there could still be some resistance ahead.