Belle's Pagcor City casino project faces delay
MANILA, Philippines [UPDATED] - New guidelines released by state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) have forced Henry Sy-controlled upscale property developer Belle Corp. to delay by more than a year the opening of its casino and hotel complex inside the Entertainment City in Manila.
Belle Vice Chairman Willy Ocier said they will open "Belle Grande Manila Bay" in the later half of 2013 rather than the original schedule of second quarter of 2012.
Belle CFO Manuel Gana said Pagcor changed the number of hotel rooms required of all developers in the integrated casino and tourism hub.
"We were expecting to do a soft open this year until Pagcor released new guidelines requiring (each locator to offer) at least 800 hotel rooms," he said.
The push-back means another locator, Bloomberry Resorts Corp., led by Enrique Razon Jr., will be the first to launch a casino in Entertainment City, with an expected first-quarter 2013 opening.
"We were hoping to be the first to open in Pagcor city but that was before Pagcor issued the new guidelines," said Gana. "(Now) we hope to be able to open next year."
Belle's casino-hotel project will rise on a 3.67-hectare property, across another 2.5-hectare lot where Belle is set to build a mall.
There will be 800 rooms spread across 6-, 5- and 4-star hotels carrying three brands. The hotels will sit on top of the casino gaming floor.
The mall, meanwhile, "will probably not be 100% complete until 2014," said Ocier.
Belle is developing the hotel component of its project with Leisure and Resorts World Corp. (LR).
Gana said they had raised P8.7 billion to fund the construction of Belle Grande Manily Bay, of which P4.5 billion was generated through a stock rights offer and the rest through bank loans.
He said LR "is expected to come up with at least another P3 billion on top (of our investment)" for the hotels.
Belle is pouring $1 billion into its casino complex, and this includes the cost of new lands.
Gana said the $1 billion will also include the funds for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway 2 project, which will lead directly to the Entertainment City via Diosdado Macapagal Avenue.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson earlier said the P12 billion cost of the public-private partnership project would be divided between private investors and the government.
Gana explained that while the agreement has yet to be finalized, it is likely that P6 billion to P6.5 billion will be "equally divided among the licensors as part of a soft loan to complete the project."
The other Entertainment City investors include Andrew Tan's Alliance Global and Japanese-led Universal Entertainment.
The investors consider the road a worthwhile investment since it will cut down travel time between the casinos and the airport. Gana said, "It will obviously help the Pagcor city in terms of infrastructure." - Rappler.com