Boracay Casino Plans Rev Back Up, as Philippines Island Shuts Down

Posted on: April 25, 2018, 08:30h. 

Last updated on: April 25, 2018, 08:07h.

The Philippines Boracay casino plan, conceived by Galaxy Entertainment and local development partner Leisure & Resorts World Corporation, might still be in the works, despite the government temporarily closing down the vacation destination.

Boracay casino closure Philippines
Uncollected sewage bags and waste pipes draining directly to the beach have led to Boracay island’s closure. (Image: Erik De Castro/Reuters/Collage:

Boracay shut down on April 4, with vacationers and nonresidents prohibited from entering the island. The closure came at the direction of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, the outspoken and controversial leader who unexpectedly weighed in on the area’s condition in February.

Duterte called the roughly four-square-mile island a “cesspool,” where its famous turquoise waters “smelled of shit.” He ordered its closure for six months, and commanded his federal environmental agencies to rehab the island.

Duterte said earlier this month that he knew of “no plans for a casino” on Boracay, even after the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) issued Galaxy Entertainment a provisional license to proceed with its $500 million integrated resort. Rumors subsequently surfaced that Galaxy and Leisure & Resorts were looking at new potential sites in the Philippines, but this week, it was revealed that the casino partners have purchased more properties on the island.

Rumors Persist

Galaxy Entertainment — one of six licensed casino operators in Macau — wants to expand out of China and into new markets. The company, led by Hong Kong billionaire Lui Che Woo, is expected to make a strong push for an integrated resort license in Japan, and one condition lawmakers there are requiring is that bidders have experience operating in foreign markets with local partners.

Boracay satisfies both of those mandates, but doing business in the Philippines isn’t easy, as Galaxy has quickly learned.

Reports have surfaced that Duterte’s closure of Boracay was really to allow Galaxy’s casino to be built without regulatory check-ins from various agencies. One political opponent to Duterte called it a “smokescreen” for the project.

Critics of the leader say he’s friends with executives at Leisure & Resorts World, a company that has supported his administration.

Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre said last week that Galaxy was now looking at sites outside Boracay, and added “that is very much welcome.” But Leisure & Resorts World said that’s not the case, and the project has not been abandoned.

About Boracay

The Philippines is home to more than 7,600 islands, but when it comes to vacations, Boracay is the most famous. Despite its small size, the island welcomed two million visitors last year and flushed the local economy with an estimated $1 billion.

It’s been a staple on the world’s “best beaches” lists for years, but it’s become a victim of its own popularity. Unregulated building practices and an aging sewer system have left the island in a constant state of repair.

Clogged sewage pipes have been a daily problem, and bags of waste have been piling up around town. If and when the federal government is able to rectify the island’s problems, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Director Samie Lim says a casino shouldn’t be welcomed.

“Boracay does not need a casino as another attraction. It is such a great attraction already,” Lim opined.