Solaire Casino opens: Manila seeks to match Macau and Singapore as a gaming capital


Last Saturday saw the opening of Solaire Resort & Casino, touted to be the new playground for high rollers from all over Asia. The imposing and grand casino is the Philippines’ first stab at joining the elite group of Asian gaming destinations currently headed by Macau and Singapore.

Sitting on prime reclaimed real estate in the Manila Bay area, Solaire’s gaming area boasts of mother-of-pearl-covered columns and features a floor (the size of four football pitches) that shines and sparkles with bits of colored glass.

The casino’s opening was led by no less than President Benigno Aquino III and billionaire Philippine port king Enrique Razon, who controls Solaire. The ceremony was highlighted by dancers pirouetting on ropes which were hanging from the ceiling.

According to reports, Razon had spent $750 million just for the first phase of Solaire’s development. This includes the 18,500 square meter gaming area with 300 tables and 1,200 slot machines and seven restaurants. It also has a five-star hotel with 500 well-appointed rooms and a spacious parking space, big enough to accommodate 2000 vehicles at any given time.

The business tycoon is expected to pump in an additional $400 million to expand the complex by the third quarter of 2014. This phase involves the addition of extra VIP gaming areas, a 1,800-seat theatre for Broadway shows and 60,000 square meters of commercial space for shops and other establishments.

Global Gaming Asset Management President Bradley Stone, Razon’s business partner, said Solaire will generate 45 per cent of its revenue from VIPs, or high-stakes punters. The official of the Las Vegas-based company added that since Manila is only a few hours away from major Asian economies like Japan, South Korea and China, Solaire poses as an exciting and fun-filled alternative for high rollers.

Soon to Rise: Entertainment City

Solaire’s American COO Michael French says Solaire offers an entertainment and gaming experience like nowhere else in the country. He promised an experience that will be “as good, if not even better” than Las Vegas or the posh casinos in Macau.

But that’s not where it ends. Solaire is just the first of four big-ticket casinos. By 2014, The Belle Grande, the first collaboration between Australian billionaire James Packer, Macau tycoon Lawrence Ho and SM mall magnate Henry Sy, is set to open its doors. The two other casinos, scheduled to open between 2015 and 2017 are said to be partnerships between Fil-Chinese business magnates and Japanese gambling giant Kazuo Okada and the Malaysia’s Genting Group.

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) Chief Cristino Naguiat projects Solaire to boost the country’s gaming revenues up to $US2 billion. He adds that once construction of the four casino Entertainment City is completed, the country’s gaming revenue could swell up to $US10 billion a year. Moreover, he said the casinos will greatly contribute to hitting the government target of 10 million tourists a year.
In a few years, Naguiat projects that the Philippines will have one of the most robust gambling industries in the world. Las Vegas currently earns $US6-billion a year, while Macau rakes in $US38 billion in annual revenue.

Asia is the Future

Lawrence Ho flew in to Manila to attend the Solaire grand launch and made a fearless forecast. He said the future of the world’s gaming industry is in Asia. He also said that the Philippines’ gaming revenue is poised to grow to $3 billion by the year 2015.

Solaire’s opening was of course, not without opposition. The country’s very vocal religious groups opposed the opening of additional casinos and luxury establishments in what is said to be a third world country. However, with the President himself attending the grand launch, the rest of the country is just optimistic that the entertainment complex will help generate more jobs and more opportunities for business expansion.

Michael French revealed that they had over 50,000 Filipino job applicants to fill 4500 job posts last year. The opening of Solaire has brought back to the country some 400 overseas Filipino workers employed as dealers, chefs, and pit bosses from Macau and Singapore. At least 20 chefs and hotel staff from the world’s most opulent hotel, Emirates Palace of Abu Dhabi, are now working at Solaire Manila Resorts.

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