Boracay Casino War Rages On: President Duterte Says ‘No’ to $550-Million Plan

There will be no casino on the island of Boracay, a spokesperson for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday, following recent comments by gaming and leisure company Leisure & Resorts World Corporation (LRWC) that their planned $550-million casino resort in the popular tourist hub was on track for 2021 opening.

LRWC partnered last year Macau casino giant Galaxy Entertainment Group for the development of the planned casino resort on the island. They received this spring a provisional gaming license from PAGCOR, the local gambling regulator. However, President Duterte ordered Boracay be closed for a six-month environmental cleanup at about the same time. The country’s top official also said multiple times that he would not allow casino gambling on the island after the completion of the rehabilitation process. Boracay was shuttered for business in late April and is expected to be reopened in late October.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said during a Monday briefing that President Duterte has remained firm in his decision to prevent the construction of casino resort on Boracay and that no private entity should be testing the political will of the country’s highest ranking official.

Mr. Roque further elaborated that Galaxy and LRWC only have a provisional license, which means that certain requirements should be met before the companies are able to operate casino gambling on the island. However, these requirements can never be fulfilled as President Duterte has previously said he would not allow that.

Casino On Track for 2021 Opening

Mr. Roque’s comments came in the wake of comments made by LRWC Vice President for Legal Affairs Katrina Nepomuceno regarding their joint project with Galaxy. Ms. Nepomuceno said over the weekend that they believe they will be able to launch the resort as originally planned in 2021, despite the island’s closure.

The official told media they were yet to decide on a groundbreaking date, but expressed confidence in the eventual materialization of the project. Ms. Nepomuceno further noted that they have been working closely with the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources as well as with the special task unit responsible for the rehabilitation of the popular tourist hub to make sure that their plan would be implemented in full compliance with any future environmental requirements

The LRWC official said that they managed to complete an important phase of their project before Boracay was shuttered, which further boosted their confidence in the resort plan’s eventual realization. The local gaming and entertainment company and its Macau-based partner acquired a 23-hectare portion of land in the Barangay Manoc-Manoc area where they plan to build the $550-million casino resort that would aim to attract high roller casino patrons and non-gambling customers from the Asia-Pacific region.

It is yet to be seen who will emerge as the winner in what now seems very much like a war between the two gaming and leisure companies and President Duterte. Earlier this year, the top official ordered that PAGCOR place a moratorium on the construction of new casinos in the country to prevent the proliferation of gambling. However, it became known last week that Hong Kong-listed integrated resort developer and operator Landing International Development has been granted a provisional gaming license by the Philippine regulator to build a casino resort in the Manila Bay area.

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