Sport & Culture

Manila Opens $1 Billion Casino

The Philippine capital is building an “Entertainment Island” in Manila Bay. The earnings could be huge.

Las Vegas and Macau (now the world’s biggest gambling zone) may dominate the world's gambling tables, but another Asian city is clamoring for a place among the world’s gaming hot spots: Manila.

On Saturday President Benigno Aquino unveiled a U.S. $1.2 billion casino on reclaimed land in Manila. The Philippines is opening the facility as part of its high stakes bet to enter the gambling business alongside high-roller Macau.

Solaire Manila Resorts is just the first in a master plan to erect four massive complexes in Manila Bay and build an “Entertainment City” from scratch. Philippine billionaire Enrique Razon, controller of the casino, was present alongside President Aquino at the casino’s opening festivities, which included performances by dancers pirouetting on ropes hanging from the ceiling.

The casino is of epic proportions. With a floor space spanning 18,500 square meters, the venue features 500 hotel rooms, seven restaurants, a parking lot with 2,000 spaces, 300 gaming tables and 1,200 slot machines. And this, for an investment of $750 million, is just the beginning. It’s already being expanded and will one day include VIP sections, 300 suites, a Broadway style theatre with 1,800 seats and 60,000 square meters devoted to retail – in total adding another U.S. $400 million to the project’s price tag.

Solaire is run by Las Vegas-based Global Gaming Asset Management, with the other three casinos slated to open on the same land being funded by major foreign backers.  Another casino project, the Belle Grande, is a joint-venture between the Philippines’ richest man Henry Sy, Australian billionaire James Packer and magnate Lawrence Ho of Macau. The other two complexes are being backed by Japanese gambling mogul Kazuo Okada and the Genting Group of Malaysia, with additional backing by Chinese-Filipinos.

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The goal for the man-made island is ambitious. Cristino Naguiat, head of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, said the casinos, when opened, could contribute to the government’s goal of attracting 10 million tourists each year.