Philippine Court of Appeals Backs Waterfront’s Bid for Manila Casino Resort

Court of Appeals upholds previous court ruling ordering PAGCOR to grant Waterfront a provisional license for the operation of a casino in Manila’s Entertainment City

The Philippine Court of Appeals has ordered PAGCOR, the country’s gambling regulator, to issue a provisional gaming license to casino and hospitality company Waterfront Philippines Inc. for the development of a hotel and casino resort in Entertainment City, Manila.

The Court of Appeals ruling upheld an August 2017 ruling by the Manila Regional Trial Court, under which PAGCOR was supposed to act on Waterfront Philippines’ license application and grant the company its license. The Court of Appeals also ordered PAGCOR to pay the hotel and casino company PHP100,000 in moral damages and PHP100,000 in exemplary damages, according to information from multiple local news sources.

Waterfront first announced plans to build a hotel and casino resort in Manila’s Entertainment City in 2008. The company said back then that its property, dubbed Grand Waterfront Hotel and Casino, would include a casino and a 2,500-room hotel, among other facilities.

Waterfront submitted all the necessary paperwork, but PAGCOR has not acted on its application for the past decade. The company filed a petition for mandamus in March 2015, seeking action on its application for a gaming license.

As mentioned earlier, the Manila Regional Trial Court ruled in favor of the hotel and casino operator last summer.

‘Without Delay’

The Court of Appeals said that the Trial Court’s ruling from August 2017 should be implemented without delay and that “considering that no additional documents were further required to be submitted”, Waterfront is believed to have completed the application process.

The Court of Appeals went on to say that there was “no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Regional Trial Court” in issuing its decision last year.

As per the two rulings, PAGCOR will have to review Waterfront’s application and issue a license for the operation of a casino in Entertainment City. Resorts World Manila, Solaire Resort & Casino, City of Dreams Manila, and Okada Manila, all four built within Entertainment City, have previously been issued similar licenses.

Waterfront said back in 2008, when it first introduced its project, that it planned to invest between $500 million and $1 billion to build the hotel and casino resort and that it would jointly develop and operate the property with an unnamed Macau-based operator.

The Court of Appeals ruling regarding Waterfront’s hotel and casino resort plan arrives at a time when President Rodrigo Duterte has unleashed his latest crackdown on gambling. The official has reiterated multiple times that he would make sure that no new casinos were built in his country in an effort to block the proliferation of gambling, which he said he hated.

Two major casino companies have sought earlier this year authorization from PAGCOR and have been issued provisional licenses by the regulator to build and operate integrated resorts with gaming floors in two popular tourism hubs.

Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group has revealed plans to develop a $500-million resort on the island of Boracay, while Hong Kong developer Landing International Development has planned to build a $1.5-billion property in the capital Manila. The future of both projects is now surrounded by clouds of uncertainty as President Duterte has condemned them and has promised to do whatever it takes to prevent them from being materialized.

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