Bloombury Resorts Owner Enrique Razon Unfazed by Filipino Duterte’s War on Gambling
Posted on: September 19, 2016, 03:00h.
Last updated on: September 19, 2016, 02:29h.
Spanish-Filipino billionaire Enrique Razon will forge ahead with his plan to build a $418 million casino in Manila, despite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s hardline crackdown on gambling.
Shortly after his election in June, Duterte set about systematically dismantling the country’s lightly regulated online gaming café chains. Most of these, some 299 across the country, were owned by Philweb, whose owner Robert Ongpin appears to have incurred Duterte’s wrath.
Philweb offered online video poker and slots via around 8,000 terminals, contributing around $12.2 million in taxes to the government’s coffers.
But despite that, Ongpin was representative of the “oligarchs” to Duterte, which he believed were “embedded in government” and practiced “influence peddling.” In July, the new leader ordered the Philippine gambling regulator PAGCOR not to renew Philweb’s license.
Razon Gambling on Duterte’s Vision
Razon, the founder of Bloomberry Resorts Corp., appears to have escaped a similar classification, and remains confident that Duterte’s crackdown extends only to the online gaming cafés. In fact, he told Bloomberg News this week that the closure of the cafés is a positive for the casino industry.
“I think cracking down on this, looking at it from our perspective, helps the licensed casinos,” Razon said.
Bloomberry’s Solaire Resort and Casino in Manila Bay is operating at “full capacity,” Razon said, and visitor numbers are up since Duterte’s election, as the president has sought to improve his country’s relations with China.
Construction of the new property, in Quezon City in north Manila, is slated to begin in the middle of next year, and could be finished during 2019.
“The prospects for the gaming industry are improving,” Richard Laneda, an analyst at COL Financial Group Inc. in Manila, told Bloomberg. “The improvement in Chinese traffic is driving sentiment, for it accounts for 30 . . . to 40 percent of the VIP market.”
In a While, Crocodile
Duterte swept to his power mandate with a promise to wipe out crime and drugs. The president unapologetically unleashed death squads into his country, who carry out extra-judicial killings of criminals and habitual drug users with impunity.
At a hearing of the Philippine Senate last week, an alleged member of one of these death squads told lawmakers that he was paid by Duterte, when he was mayor of the southern Philippine city of Davao, to carry out executions that involved chopping up a body and feeding it to a crocodile, while dumping other bodies in the sea. He also alleged that the president finished off one victim himself.
Over 3,000 Filipinos have been killed so far as part of Duterte’s “war on drugs” in the three months since he was elected, with no trials and often with no evidence of any involvement at all.
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