Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has reiterated his commitment to prevent any new casino resort projects from materialization in the country just a day after he said he would block the construction of Landing International Development’s $1.5-billion integrated resort in the Manila Bay area.
The Hong Kong-listed company received earlier this year a provisional license from PAGCOR, the Philippine gambling regulator, to build and operate an integrated resort in Entertainment City, a larger gaming, accommodation, and entertainment scheme in the Manila Bay area introduced by the country’s government late last decade and aiming to boost the local tourism industry.
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Landing broke ground on its project yesterday, but shortly after a spokesperson for President Duterte announced that the country’s top official had no intention to allow the project’s materialization.
The Philippine President himself said today during a speech at the 117th Police Service Anniversary celebration in Quezon City that he hates gambling and that he would not authorize the construction of new casinos in the country. The official further advised that interested developers should better look for “something more enticing”.
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It also emerged yesterday that President Duterte has fired the entire board of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation as part of his efforts to prevent the controversial casino resort project from being carried out.
The foundation was established back in 1972 with a Presidential Decree to run the Nayong Pilipino cultural theme park in Pasay, Metro Manila. Landing has secured a 75-year lease agreement with the foundation as part of its pursuit of expansion in the Philippines.
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However, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday that the President found the deal particularly disadvantageous, to a great extent due to its 75-year term. President Duterte himself said that a 75-year lease for the operation of a casino resort was not something he would allow.
Price-tagged at $1.5 billion, the NayonLanding integrated resort would have featured a casino gambling facility with 239 slot machines and 155 gaming tables, several hotels with a combined of more than 1,500 rooms and suites, a convention center, water parks and other entertainment options, and a number of food and beverage facilities, among others.
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Landing said during the property’s groundbreaking ceremony that it expected it to attract between two and three million visitors per year. The resort was expected to open doors at some point in 2022, under the terms of the developer’s license from PAGCOR. An earlier opening date would have not been possible as under a February 2017 resolution, no casino resorts should be launched in or near Entertainment City until 2022, so that the area’s gambling industry has enough time to “mature”. At present, there are three operational resorts in Entertainment City and a fourth one is slated to launch in the early 2020s.
Following the comments made by President Duterte’s spokesman on his behalf, Landing said yesterday that its project would push through as the lease contract for the property “was valid and effective”.