James Packer, whose father is the infamous media mogul Kerry Packer, was in town in mid-February as part of initial talks with officials.
At that time he met with Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa as well as Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera.
Though the Daily FT broke the news in its 19 February issue, the development was kept under wraps. However, subsequently Investment Promotion Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena confirmed the visit by Packer Jr.
Opportunities being explored include a $ 350 million gaming venture down D.R. Wijewardena Mawatha, which the Government is keen to develop as an entertainment centre. It will be an integrated resort with a mega hotel. Packer’s venture Melco Crown recently clinched a deal to set up the first gaming venture in the Philippines (see boxed story).
His local business partner is gaming industry specialist and influential Ravi Wijeratne.
Rated as the third richest Australia by Forbes magazine with an estimated wealth of $ 6 billion, Packer Jr. inherited control of the family company, Consolidated Press Holdings Limited, which controls investments in Crown Limited, Consolidated Media Holdings and other companies.
Early this month, the main Opposition United National Party (UNP) MP and economist Dr. Harsha de Silva told media that the Government’s hurried plans to amend 21 acts, including the Betting and Gaming Act, apparently facilitated the James Packer deal.
De Silva also questioned as to why casinos had been included in the Strategic Development Act, which is only meant for projects that promote social and economic welfare for the entire population. Given the moral risks, he even called on the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) to pay attention to such steps taken by the Government.
“These special projects are supposed to significantly enhance the social and economic benefits of this country and what is being done with this legislation is to invite casinos and gaming operators into Sri Lanka under the Strategic Development Act. So what happens under this Act is that these people are given enormous tax benefits, some going as much as 25 years of tax exemptions. I must also say that out of the nine casinos operating in Colombo, only five are registered, as was revealed at the Consultative Committee Chaired by the Commissioner General of Inland Revenue. So is this the equitable tax distribution of this country, when you charge Rs. 85 for a tin of canned fish, when you charge Rs. 28 on a Rs. 100 reload for a phone? Why don’t they register the large casinos in the city?”
Dr. de Silva charged that it was unfair to give massive tax exemptions to lucrative businesses but tax every item essential for the poor.
Melco Crown to raise $ 400 m via shares for Manila casino
Melco Crown (Philippines) Resorts Corp, the Philippines unit of Macau’s Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd., plans to raise up to US$ 400 million (MOP 3.2 billion) from a fresh equity offering to fund part of the operator’s investment in its Manila casino.
In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, Melco Crown said it planned to raise funds from the sale of up to a billion common shares of the company with an option to upsize by up to 20%.
Melco Crown Entertainment finalised its partnership with Belle Corp for a gaming complex at Manila Bay last week. This will be Melco Crown’s first venture outside of Macau. The company will be in charge of operating the casino resort.
Willy Ocier, Vice Chairman of Belle Corp., said the facility would be operating by “probably June or July, mid-2014,” UPI news agency reported, quoting the Philippine Star newspaper.
The report also described the scheme as costing US$ 1.3 billion, instead of the previously reported US$ 1 billion.
Melco Crown Entertainment this week also announced the appointment of industry veteran Kevin Sim as Chief Operating Officer of its subsidiary, Melco Crown (Philippines) Resorts Corporation, a company listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange. Sim will oversee the operations of the company’s integrated resort development in Entertainment City, Manila.
Sim will join Melco Crown Philippines on 29 April 2013, following his departure from Genting Malaysia Berhad, where he serves as the Executive Vice President for Genting Highlands Resort, in charge of all aspects of operations including the casino, hotels and various other operating divisions.
Prior to this role, he was Senior Vice President of Casino Operations, Vice President of Slots, and Vice President of Finance. Sim was also instrumental in starting the Business Intelligence Unit where data mining is used extensively to drive Genting’s various customer relationship management initiatives.
Lawrence Ho, Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Melco Crown Entertainment, commented: “Our integrated resort development in Manila marks the company’s first development opportunity outside of Macau, and we look forward to delivering not only a world-class gaming experience to the Philippines, but also bringing our unique brand of leisure and entertainment to a new and exciting market.”
Melco Crown Entertainment is currently developing an integrated resort in Entertainment City, Manila which, upon completion by mid-2014, will include mass market and VIP gaming facilities, five-star luxury hotels and specialty restaurants and bars.
The resort will also include other notable amenities including Manila’s first branded family entertainment centre, a live performance central lounge inside the casino and a night club in the Fortune Egg, an architecturally-unique attraction which is expected to become an iconic landmark in the Manila Bay area.