First Philippines Casino Outside Manila Approved, Developer Close Friend to President Duterte

Posted on: May 5, 2017, 10:30h. 

Last updated on: May 5, 2017, 10:37h.

Construction can begin on the only Philippines casino resort to date outside the capital of Manila. On Thursday, PAGCOR, the country’s gaming regulator, bestowed its blessing for the Cebu City resort, paving the way for the building project to start.

Philippines casino resort Cebo Manila
Businessman Dennis Uy, (seen here to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s left), is part of the latter’s move to build the brick-and-mortar gaming industry in the Southeast Asian country. (Image: Toto Lozano/Manila Bulletin)

Udenna Development Corporation is behind the project, a company that is owned by businessman Dennis Uy. During President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign in 2016, Uy was one of the controversial leader’s top donors.

The resort will be built on nearly 30 acres of beachfront property on Cebu’s Mactan Island, roughly a 20-minute drive from the city’s international airport. A luxury hotel, retail complex, convention and meeting space, and private residences will complement the casino.

In all, the integrated resort is expected to cost $341 million.

Gambling on Casinos

Duterte’s (often brutal) focus is to end the drug trade in his country, and clean up other illegal markets, including suspected gambling rings. But his other primary mission is to grow the economy, and integrated resorts are seen as one way to do just that.

PAGCOR has been instructed to develop ways to make the Philippines the “top gaming and entertainment destination” in southeast Asia. The Cebu casino is the first step towards that goal. The time is ripe, as high rollers continue to look for new gaming destinations due to China’s continued Macau crackdown.

“With its huge potential to become a world-class tourist and entertainment destination, this project will greatly benefit not only Central Visayas but the country as a whole,” PAGCOR Chairman Andrea Domingo explained.

It’s not the first time the country has focused on gaming.

Founded in 2002 by PAGCOR, Entertainment City is a specially designated gaming and entertainment zone, and currently home to three casino resorts. City of Dreams Manila, Solaire Resort, and Okada Manila are all up and running, and Resorts World is expected to open its property there in 2018.

His Way or the Highway

Duterte is approaching his first full year in office, and is showing no signs that he’s going to soften his political approach anytime soon. The president’s first 12 months have caused plenty of controversy.

Duterte’s been accused of human rights violations for his law enforcement directive to take out suspected drug dealers without any form of judicial process. Never one for political correctness, Duterte has also been lambasted by the United Nations and foreign leaders around the world for his outlandish remarks and threats.

He called former US President Barack Obama a “son of a b—-” who can “go to hell.” He’s asked his troops to capture terrorists so he can eat their livers with “salt and vinegar.” And in December, Duterte threatened to burn down the United Nations.

Just this week he warned an investigator looking into the Philippines’ alleged extrajudicial killings, “I will kill you. I will really kill you.” Based on Duterte’s history of handling those who have crossed him (or who he believes have done so), that’s probably not an empty threat.

Regardless, President Donald Trump invited Duterte to the White House last week.