Vibrant gaming sector to attract more tourists
MANILA - It took almost 20 years to allow foreign equity in the Philippines’s gaming and gambling sector. When the long wait ended in 2010, investments have started to pour into the country.
The government issued Executive Order 158, or the 8th Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL), in 2010. Under this FINL, the government now allowed 100-percent foreign equity in gambling in Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) zones.
Investors the world over did not waste time to jump on the opportunity, especially when the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, (Pagcor) unveiled its plans for Entertainment City. The development intends to become a haven not only for local and international casino and entertainment magnates but also establish a new “playground” for millions of tourists worldwide.
The government is now reaping the benefits of this decision. In June 2013 Pagcor turned over a total of over P1.4 billion in cash dividends to the national coffers.
The amount, plus the P5.7 billion making up the national government’s 50-percent share from Pagcor’s total income from December 2012 to April 2013, brought the agency’s total remittances to the National Treasury to over P7 billion during the period.
In his keynote address during Pagcor’s turnover of funds, President Aquino lauded the government-owned and-controlled corporation (GOCC) for its contribution to the national treasury. He also highlighted the gaming firm’s role as a partner in pushing for the country’s progress.
Pagcor’s contributions to the national government are usually used for education projects, such as the building of classrooms, and other social programs that the current administration is undertaking.
Mr. Aquino also cited the changes made in the management of Pagcor. The GOCC was recently caught in a controversy involving a casino magnate and some unscrupulous officials in Pagcor. But with the changes that the Aquino administration made, Pagcor’s “dark days” may already be behind it.
“Mula nang inayos natin ang timpla sa kanilang pamamahala, hindi lang natin napigilan ang pagsingaw ng kanilang pondo dahil sa kapeng napakarami, aktibo na rin nating katuwang ang Pagcor sa pagpapatayo ng mga classroom sa iba’t-ibang sulok ng bansa,” the President said, referring to Pagcor’s nationwide school-building project.
Under the new leadership, the government said Pagcor was able to allocate P3 billion for building thousands of classrooms in public schools nationwide. It has also provided P100 million worth of funding for the Pnoy Bayanihan project, which produces armchairs out of confiscated logs and donated to public schools.
Another big-ticket Corporate Social Responsibility project of the state-owned firm is the P20-million Kasibulan grassroots football program, which hones the skills of thousands of young Pinoy football enthusiasts nationwide.
The government said efforts made by the new management to surpass the agency’s annual income targets and accomplishments. The administration recognized that these are part of its mandate to help raise much-needed revenues for the government.
“We are happy to note that in less than three years of our administration, Pagcor has already generated over P107 billion in gross revenues from July 2010 to April 2013. Of this amount, at least P54 billion was remitted as our contributions to nation-building,” Mr. Aquino said.
This year Pagcor is looking at a 10-percent hike in its total revenues. This target may be within sight with robust gaming operations as evidenced by the successful opening of port tycoon Enrique Razon’s Solaire Resort and Casino at Pagcor’s Entertainment City.
Entertainment City will also be the location for major casino and entertainment-related developments. These include SM Consortium’s Belle Grand, slated to open in the fourth quarter of 2013; Manila Bay resorts of Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc. set to open at the end of 2016; Resorts World Bayshore of Travellers International Hotel Group Inc., which will also open at the end of 2016; and the expansion of Solaire, slated for 2014.
The new sights and sounds of Entertainment City are expected to draw in tourists from all over the country and the world. The strategic location of the Philippines, being three hours away from other countries in Southeast Asia, makes it a natural hub for tourism and entertainment.
The attractions in Entertainment City are actually at the heart of the tourism battlecry of the Philippines—“It’s More Fun in the Philippines.” This makes Entertainment City one of the major selling points of the country in terms of attracting international and domestic tourists.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) targets to increase foreign tourist arrivals to 5.5 million this year; 6.8 million in 2014; 8.2 million in 2015; and 10 million in 2016. In terms of domestic travelers, the DOT targets to increase this to 44.1 million in 2013; 47.7 million in 2014; 51.7 million in 2015; and 56.1 million in 2016.
Apart from being just part of the major selling points of the Philippines’s tourism program, Entertainment City is also expected to benefit from the increase in domestic and foreign tourists.
Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez noted in the recent Philippine Economic Briefing that tourists from various parts of the country and those coming from abroad usually fly in to visit because the country is an archipelago and flying in is the easiest way to reach a destination.
Jimenez noted that this actually increases tourism spending in the Philippines, since tourists in the country usually stay several days, or three to four days, in the country per visit. This means they spend more for lodging, food, entertainment and other expenses they will need to maximize their stay in the country.
The DOT expects foreign visitor receipts to steadily increase to P205.4 billion in 2013; P269.9 billion in 2014; P350.4 billion in 2015; and P455 billion in 2016. In terms of domestic travelers, tourism receipts are expected to reach P1.3 trillion in 2013; P1.41 trillion in 2014; P1.61 trillion in 2015; and P1.85 trillion in 2016.
The future of the gaming and gambling industry in the Philippines remains bright. The near-20-year anticipation for the revival of the industry was well worth the wait.