Hong Kong’s Landing International Development Ltd., owners of London’s tony Les Ambassadeurs private gaming club, met Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte this week to discuss a proposal to construct a “world-class international branded theme park integrated resort” in the controversial leader’s country.
Rumors suggest (although the company itself has not openly confirmed) this is a euphemism for the first major large-scale casino resort to be built outside of Entertainment City, the special economic zone south of Manila, where the Philippine’s four integrated resorts are located.
A press release issued on Tuesday makes no mention of the location of the proposed development, or even whether it would involve casino gaming, but a report by the Manila Standard newspaper on Wednesday said that it would, and that Landing is eyeing a 365-acre of reclaimed land in Manila Bay for the project.
Accompanied by his senior management team, Landing’s Chairman Dr. Yang Zhihui met with Duterte and his cabinet at Malacanang Palace on Tuesday to make their proposal.
The president’s response, they claim, was favorable. He exhibited “keen interest” and “overwhelming support” when he heard of the company’s plans, whatever those may actually be, according to the press release.
“We are honored to share with President Duterte and his cabinet team our vision for tourism in the country and our proposal to build an iconic international branded theme park integrated resort in the Philippines that all Filipinos will be proud of,” Zhihui said via press release.
That resort will reportedly include Asia’s first “movie-themed indoor theme park,” a waterpark, and other activities geared to the mass market, according to Landing. It promises to “enhance the Philippines’ tourism appeal” as well as offering “significant employment opportunities for locals,” claiming it will allow many who must now work abroad to come back home.
Market Needs Breathing Space
Landing’s beeline to Duterte’s palace, as opposed to applying to gaming regulator PAGCOR, is that in March, the latter announced a five-year cessation on casino license applications in the Manila area.
While the country’s new integrated resorts are currently thriving, PAGCOR chief Andrea Domingo said there are concerns about oversupply. The regulator was “protecting the interests” of existing investors “who have taken the risks earlier,” she said. She believed they needed “breathing space” to mature their market.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s government has announced a crackdown on Chinese companies investing in “irrational” overseas enterprises, with casinos and “entertainment ventures” being particularly high on the disapproval list.
Even if Duterte gives the project the thumbs up, Landing could be subject to tighter controls on any spending habits deemed too frivolous for Beijing’s somewhat Puritan standards.