Melco Crown, Belle raise Manila casino investment 30 percent to $1.3 bln

Reuters

MANILA, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd will increase investment in a Philippine casino resortto further attract big spenders, pushing development cost 30percent more than planned to $1.3 billion, after regulatorychange permitted more gaming tables.

Melco is developing its first integrated casino resortoutside of Macau with Belle Corp, owned by thePhilippines' richest man, Henry Sy, to offer its clientele ofcash-rich Chinese an alternative gaming experience.

Melco Chief Executive Lawrence Ho on Wednesday said duringthe launch of the "City of Dreams Manila" brand that it willraise its investment in the project's initial phase to $680million from $620 million.

Melco and Belle intend to add more hotel rooms, gamingtables and machines which, together with revised designs andmaterials upgrades, will take total development cost beyond theplanned $1 billion, said Belle Vice Chairman Willy Ocier.

City of Dreams Manila will open next year with a 260-roompremium hotel under the Crown Towers chain owned by Ho's partnerin Melco, Australian billionaire James Packer. It will be one ofthree hotels in the complex.

"We are encouraged by the growth of the market. And the factthat we are bringing these ultra high-end and very unique brandsalso necessitated the fact that we do need to increaseinvestments, and we are happy to do it," Ho told reporters.

The extra investment will increase gaming tables to 365 from242 and gaming machines to 3360 from 1450.

Ho said the partnership will attract clients to Manila byappealing to Melco's Macau base of high rollers and the agentswho cater to them.

"We need to do additional things to wow them, whetherprivate jets, helicopters, you name it we are going to make sureit is possible," Ho said.

City of Dreams Manila is part of the Entertainment Citycomplex that the government hopes will attract tourists to boostgaming revenue to $10 billion by 2017 from $2 billion in 2012,surpassing the $6 billion markets of Singapore and Las Vegas.

When opened, City of Dreams Manila will compete withBloomberry Resorts Corp's $1.2 billion Solaire casinocomplex, the first phase of which opened inMarch.

A joint venture of Genting Hong Kong Ltd andAlliance Global Group will also build a casino resortin Entertainment City. Japan's Universal Entertainment Corp is building a $2 billion casino-hotel complex in thesame area, but the project is clouded by allegations ofwrongdoing.

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