President Duterte’s recent executive order may help support Dennis Uy’s plans to build an IR in Clark City, while a specialist in the country’s gaming law suggests that the Philippines still offer an attractive regulatory environment for operators.
Davao-based businessman, Dennis Uy’s plans to develop a casino in Clark City, Pampanga may receive a boost thanks to a recent executive order signed by president Rodrigo Duterte.
The order declares the Clark Industrial Estate 5 (IE5) as an international centre of commerce, industry, leisure and recreation. While the area had previously been designated as a logistics centre, the new directive opens the door for a wider range of activities and businesses to operate in Clark City.
“[IE5] attracted international attention and interest as the Asia-Pacific Region’s emerging premiere hub for aviation and international logistics, as well as an international centre for commerce, industry, leisure and recreation,” the text of the executive order stated.
PH Resorts Group, the gaming and hospitality arm of Uy’s Udenna Group, is currently planning and developing two casino resorts in the Philippines – the $341m Emerald Resort and Casino in Mactan, Cebu, and the proposed Clark Resort on a site covering 13.5 hectares in the Clark Freeport Zone.
Speaking during a recent interview, Marie Antonette Quiogue, head of the gaming department at Romulo Law, highlighted that the “the gaming landscape” of the Philippines is changing, thanks in part to outside investment.
“Entertainment City, I think, is setting the standards, but there are various casinos that are going to be set up in the next few years,” she stated. “You have Solaire that is setting up a new casino in Quezon City that is going to be very big.
“Cebu is going to open, I think, three IRs. There’s going to be one in Cavite. There are talks of a Davao one. And then, different regions wherein, it’s outside Metro Manila, but obviously it’s going to help develop various industries around that area, and I think a lot of people are very excited about that.”
While foreign investment in the country’s casino industry has been hampered by Duterte’s antipathy towards gambling, a recent comment by the president that he “will not meddle with [gambling] anymore” indicates he may be prepared to moderate his stance.
While the remark might not necessarily signal an official change in policy, it has raised hopes that the president may yet revise his position on the casino licence moratorium that was introduced last year.
Despite the fact that 2018 wasn’t exactly a red-letter year for casino developments in the Philippines, with the government nixing both Galaxy Entertainment Group’s planned casino resort on Boracay, and Landing International Development’s NayonLanding IR in Entertainment City, Quiogue contends that the country still offered an attractive regulatory environment for operators.
“I think what our regulators have tried to do is find a balance, [so] that we have the right regulations to attract the big companies, the listed companies, [and] to make them feel their investment will be safe but [at the same time it’s] not as strict, as for instance maybe Singapore, such that it makes it impossible …for investors to do business in the Philippines. From a regulatory standpoint I think that’s helping,” she continued.
Nevertheless, she underlined the importance of engaging with local government and regional stakeholders before embarking on a casino development, and noted that Pagcor has introduced a new requirement for operators to obtain “environmental certificates”.
“My advice is, before you even set up shop, you have to reach out to these people, to these institutions. Talk to your local governments, if you need to, talk to the bishop [and] the parish[and] explain to them how you’re going to build a sustainable environment related to gaming [and] how it’s going to [create] jobs,” Quiogue added.