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Melco on the prowl

Gaming operator Melco Resorts & Entertainment could be looking to increase its stake in the Philippines as PAGCOR works to sell off its 17 exclusively-owned casinos. If price and opportunity are right, for a whole hotel to be redeveloped, it could be on the table. Finalising the buyout of Hard Rock’s shares in Cyprus casino.

Local casino operator Melco Resorts & Entertainment told Business Daily the company welcomes the ‘developments’ disclosed by the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) over the weekend, when it announced that it will start privatizing 17 exclusively-run casinos countrywide next year.
‘The Philippines is an exciting market for international entertainment […] and we look forward to continuing to work together [with PAGCOR] in the future,’ Melco told Business Daily.
The company operates City of Dreams Manila, located in the Entertainment City in the Philippine capital. Opened in 2015, the property remains one of the most profitable Integrated Resorts in the country.
In a previous interview with Macau Business, Melco’s Chairman and CEO Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, said that while Melco would be “open-minded” about bidding on PAGCOR properties, the company would be “very strategic in terms of looking at it.”
“If there was a big redevelopment opportunity, a whole hotel that we could redevelop, we would be potentially interested in doing that,” Ho told Macau Business in June.
Reasons for privatizing the Philippine state’s gaming assets range from alternatives to raising funds for public coffers to addressing eventual conflicts of interest tied to PAGCOR’s role as both a regulator and an operator.
Speaking to Business Daily, Ricardo Chi Sen Siu, Associate Professor in Business Economics at the University of Macau, said that PAGCOR’s decision to expand its role as regulator-only by privatizing existing properties ‘will quite likely in future elevate the efficiency of the Philippine’s casino gaming market.’
Accordingly, the professor claimed that it ‘may exert certain competition on Macau’s market,’ although at this stage ‘the actual effect may still be unclear.’
Following comments by Grant Govertsen, managing director of Union Gaming in Business Daily’s Monday edition, that junkets are ‘clearly interested in expanding their bases of operations, including transitioning from an agency to a principal model,’ Business Daily also contacted Suncity Group, currently operating VIP rooms in the Philippines, to enquire about its interest in acquiring PAGCOR assets in 2018. However, the company had not responded to Business Daily enquiries by the time this went to print.