BEYOND CITY OF DREAMS | Belle Corp of Sys eyes second site for gaming operations

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MANILA – Belle Corporation, the property and gaming unit of the Sy family, is looking at expansion opportunities for its casino assets, its optimism driven by the series of key infrastructure developments encouraged by the government.

On top of possibly extending the 6.2-hectare City of Dreams, the company is also scouting for a second site either inside or outside Metro Manila.

“We have applied for a second site in line with the fact that our other licensee partners have second sites, so we are applying based on the policy of a level playing field. So far we have not identified our second site, but Pagcor [the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.] told us to present it as soon as we have [one],” said Willy Ocier, Belle Corp. vice chair.

Belle officials said some non-gaming facilities could be transferred to an 8,000 square meter property near the City of Dreams (COD), allowing for the expansion of gaming operations at the integrated resort and casino development.

Revenues from the COD, which is operated by a joint venture between the SM Investments Corporation unit and Hong Kong’s Melco Crown Entertainment, allowed Belle to net P622 million in the first quarter, up 79 percent from a year earlier.

While earnings from its real estate business (P1.44 billion) exceeded gaming revenues (P1.28 billion), the company said casino operations could soon eclipse its other units.

Continued growth could also propel City of Dreams to lead the industry in terms of gross gaming revenues (GGR).

According to Manuel Gana, Belle Corp. president and CEO, “moving forward we expect the gaming share from COD to increase; then it will dilute I guess the others, because COD is growing significantly and there’s a good chance that sometime this year it will be number 1 in total GGR” among the integrated resort and casino developments.

The company also hopes the government will approve a “visa on-arrival” arrangement with China to drive tourist arrivals.

Ocier said the industry has been lobbying for visas on arrival, especially for Chinese mainland tourists. “It hasn’t happened yet but we are constantly lobbying. Hopefully we will get approval soon on a bilateral approval for Filipinos going to China and Chinese coming here so that will obviously improve the traffic coming from China.”

Another growth catalyst has been the opening of the NAIA Expressway, which has eased traffic to and from the airport.

Ocier said they were also talking with Ayala Land for a bridgeway that will connect a planned mall complex right across the City of Dreams.