I recently wrote an editorial titled “Silver linings” in which I noted that while Asia’s long-time gaming hub of Macau is now in a worrying state of limbo, neighboring jurisdictions such as the Philippines, Singapore and Australia are rebounding strongly and, in most instances, already exceeding 2019 revenue levels.
One month on and I’ve now witnessed this recovery with my very own eyes after a busy August that saw IAG attend the Australasian Gaming Expo in Sydney before spending eight days in the Philippines and another eight days in Singapore.
The Philippines was particularly notable, especially given that my last trip there was early December 2019 – just months before the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to international travel.
First observation? Gaming floors across the country are pumping. IAG visited all four Entertainment City IRs during our visit to Manila, and without exception they were as busy, if not busier, than I’ve seen them before. In fact, it was hard not to be impressed by the sight of City of Dreams Manila’s main floor one Monday night around 7pm as table after table of excited players made the place feel like a Las Vegas nightclub. No longer are we reminiscing about the good old days.
Other regions are quickly following suit. In Clark, where the former Widus Hotel & Casino recently rebranded as Hann Casino Resort following a major expansion project, gaming floors were also back in the swing of things, buoyed by strong domestic demand and the gradual return of flights from South Korea. We met with owner Daesik Han during our stay, and he told us that GGR through August was already at 150% of 2019 levels and still growing significantly.
That can only be helped by Clark’s brand-new international airport terminal, a truly world-class facility that will become a major asset for the emerging gaming hub as airlift increases.
Likewise, the new international terminal in Cebu is a massive improvement on the previous offering, opening the doorway for guests to the two integrated resorts being developed on the holiday island.
Although one of those, Emerald Bay, remains far from opening, NUSTAR Resort & Casino has held its soft launch and will provide the Philippines with another spectacular offering once fully operational.
Even with only 60 of its 1,000 hotel rooms currently complete and most of its VIP gaming space still a concrete jungle – yes, we did the full tour – the impressive main gaming floor was surprisingly busy, while a steady flow of foot traffic frequented its three operational restaurants, as well as the stunning hotel lobby.
Talk of the Philippines as Asia’s most exciting growth market is certainly no exaggeration, and I can assure you there is plenty more to come.