Sy, Packer, Ho formalize Manila casino deal
Sy-led Belle Corp. signs a cooperation agreement with Melco Crown, owned by billionaires James Packer and Lawrence Ho, for a US$1 billion gaming venture in Manila

MANILA, Philippines – The Sy group has formally entered into an agreement with casino billionaires James Packer and Lawrence Ho for a US$1-billion gaming venture in Manila.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, Sy-led Belle Corp. said it and its wholly owned subsidiary, PremiumLeisure and Amusement Inc., signed a cooperation agreement with Melco Crown Entertainment for the development of a casino and entertainment resort within the 120-hectare Entertainment City.

Entertainment City is the integrated tourism and gaming complex of state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) that will rise on a reclaimed area along Manila Bay and near the Manila airport.

The cooperation agreement makes Belle a co-licensee and owner of the resort project with Melco, while Melco will be co-licensee and operator of all of the project’s facilities.

“We are very happy to welcome Melco to the Philippines. We could not have found a better partner for this endeavor,” said Belle vice chairman Willy Ocier.

“We are confident that Melco will bring its expertise in operating a highly successful integrated resort complex and strongly contribute to promoting the Philippines as one of Asia’s premiere tourism destinations,” he added.

Ho, son of casino mogul Stanley Ho, and Australian billionaire Packer co-own Melco, which has a network of casinos in Australia and Macau, the world’s gambling mecca.

Melco is the developer of the famous “City of Dreams,” which is known for its spectacular show called “The House of Dancing Water” — a major tourist attraction in Macau.

Players at Pagcor hub

The deal between Belle and Melco will not only boost the competitiveness of the gambling industry in Manila, where the government is hoping to create the Philippines’ version of the Las Vegas Strip. It will also bring in an additional investment from Melco of “no more than $580 million over the course of the project.”

Belle is one of the 4 groups that were awarded licenses to build and operate casinos in the Entertainment City.

The others include tycoon Andrew Tan’s Alliance Global, which has a joint venture with another major casino player in Asia, Genting Bhd of Malaysia.

Bloomberry Investments of billionaire and global port operator Enrique Razon Jr. is also a licensee. It will open a $1.2-billion casino resort in the Pagcor hub next year, and has contracted Global Gaming Asset Management for the project.

The biggest player is Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp., led by controversial billionaire Kazuo Okada. Okada’s group wil invest $2 billion in a casino-hotel that will be completed by 2014. –

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