Two big-ticket casino resort projects seen to make Cebu a gaming destination
Does Cebu have what it takes to be the Philippines’ next gaming hub?
Local tourism stakeholders seem to think so, especially with the projected completion of two big-ticket casino resort projects in the province between 2020 and 2022.
Edilberto Mendoza, past president of the Cebu Association of Tour Operation Specialists (CATOS), said that aside from being a MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibits) destination, the island province also has the potential as a gaming destination.
“Gaming is another come-on for visitors, most especially foreigners. This means that apart from the current offerings we have, there is something new on the table we can give,” he told Cebu Daily News.
In the past year, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has given provisional licenses to two developers to begin work on casino resort projects in the cities of Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue.
These are Udenna Development Corp.’s $341-million project in Lapu-Lapu City and Pan-Asia Millennium Hotel and Resort Inc.’s (MPA) $300-million venture in Mandaue City.
After securing its license from PAGCOR earlier this year, the Dennis Uy–led UDC broke ground for The Emerald Resort and Casino in Lapu-Lapu City last July 26.
The $341-million project, which sits on a 12.5-hectare property in Barangay Punta Engaño, will be the first world-class integrated resort outside Luzon.
This master-planned property will feature modern buildings surrounded by greenery and infinity pools, a skydiving center on a pier, commercial retail complex, convention center, luxury hotels, condotels, villas, and plush private residences.
The Emerald Resort and Casino is designed by American visionary designer and architect Paul Steelman, whose works include The Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and The Sands in Macau.
“This resort-casino can be a lot different from everyone else. It will have grand suites, five-storey aquariums, retail malls that will rival the best in Asia, among others. It will have gaming areas, but we designed it to be family-friendly. The palatial aspect of this building will certainly attract more
tourists. Besides, this site is one of the most beautiful in the world,” Steelman said in a PAGCOR press release.
Initially, the project was set to operate in 2019 with projected completion in 2022.
Dennis Uy, Udenna president and chief executive officer, in earlier reports said they are very bullish on the tourism and hospitality prospects in the Philippines and that it was high time to investment in tourism and gaming.
He added that there would be better employment opportunities for locals as they intend to open at least 800 jobs across two phases.
In the PAGCOR statement, Uy was quoted as saying that “the project will play a vital role in transforming Mactan into a premiere tourist destination with a vibrant and thriving economy.”
For Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza, this will be an added reason for tourists to explore their city as well as help uplift the lives of their people through job opportunities.
Meanwhile, MPA only secured its provisional license from PAGCOR last August 9, signifying that the developer can now proceed with the undertaking as far as the gaming regulator is concerned.
Justin Xiao, MPA chief executive officer, said he is positive that the project will be “a world-class entertainment center and [the] most popular place in Cebu.”
In a statement, Xiao said that the venture will generate at least 4,000 jobs, boosting the tourism industry and economy of Cebu.
The project is estimated to cost $300 million or around P15.3 billion ($1:P51).
This “emerging contemporary lifestyle district at the center of Mandaue City” is targeted to open by the third quarter of 2020.
Delos Reyes said the company still cannot disclose the exact location or the size of the project in Mandaue City, but emphasized that it will be a “big” one.
The company official said they hope to finalize everything within this month.
While CATOS’ Mendoza welcomed these developments, he said there is a need to come up with proper guidelines on this new offering since, given the local culture, Cebuanos are not as open to gaming activities compared to those in other countries.
Edwin Ortiz, director of the Tourism Promotions Board of the Department of Tourism, said the two upcoming projects were expected to enhance the role of Cebu in the Philippines’ tourism industry, further cementing its position as a major gateway to the country.
“The target year of completion of these projects is in perfect timing to the completion of our (new) Mactan Cebu International Airport’s (MCIA) new passenger terminal,” he said.
The new MCIA passenger terminal is set to begin operations in June 2018, which will bring the capacity of the gateway to 12.5 million passengers annually from the current 4.5 million.
Ortiz said that aside from providing additional attraction for leisure travelers, the two projects will also make Cebu a very fitting choice for MICE events, which usually attract big groups.
Mandaue City is expected to become a major commercial and entertainment area with the upcoming resort casino in the locality as well as plans to redevelop the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC).
He added that the the project in Lapu-Lapu City will also further enhance the city’s position as a leisure and MICE destination, especially after having hosted several big international events in the past already.
“These projects will enhance the role of Cebu as a gateway to the Philippines and this will definitely benefit our neighboring islands such as Bohol, Negros, and Iloilo,” said Ortiz.