One of the more interesting developments this past year is the likely emergence of Manila as a major gambling Mecca along the lines of Las Vegas and Macau. Mecca is the place where people go to worship in droves, again and again. It is a destination that becomes a part of the visitor's soul. Never mind that the object of adoration in this case is a neon blaze in the heat of a warm tropical night, a casino filled with idols, one-armed bandits, spinning wheels of red and black, and green felt tables where little ivory cubes rattle about.
Forbes gave a nice summation of the developments in Manila a couple of weeks ago. Article link. Here's what we have:
Four large casinos are under construction and scheduled to open in Manila in 2013. The area is called Bagong Nayong Pilipino Entertainment City, a 1 kilometer square project that will catapult the Philippines to global prominence in legalized pick-pocketing. The gambling Mecca is expected to top Las Vegas in a few years.
I snipped some highlights from the Forbes article and got a clear sense of the power of this development. These are the principals:
- Philippine billionaire Enrique Razon Jr. and his Bloomberry Resorts
- The SM Consortium, backed by the country’s richest person, Henry Sy
- Billionaire Japanese pachinko king Kazuo Okada
- Resorts World Bayshore, a partnership between Malaysia’s Genting Group, controlled by the family of billionaire Lim Kim Hua, and Alliance Global Group, a Philippine food industry conglomerate run by billionaire Andrew Tan
You know, that is one impressive line-up.
Steve Wynn of Las Vegas is really pissed off about it and, in a jealous snit, labeled the Philippines corrupt. He dumped Okada as his partner, claiming he paid off the Philippine Gaming Board members. Donald Trump of Atlantic City is probably tearing at his hair and spitting apprentices. The honchos in glitzy Macau are probably sneering down their noses at the lower class Filipino gambling barons.
This project will change the face of Manila forever. It will blast tourism records to smithereens. It has the critical mass and infrastructure needed to be a huge hit across Asia. Low-cost air flights hauling hordes of moneyed Asians in and packing a bunch of broke drunks back home. 5,000 hotel rooms. Large defined area, like the famous Las Vegas "Strip", dedicated to party time. The Resorts World project alone will have 5,400 slot machines and 800 gaming tables. Presumably there will be flashy shows and restaurants galore. The main policing problem is likely to be controlling the flood of young Filipinas who will flock to the big city to partake of the rich opportunities coming to town.
Outlying casinos at beach resorts are also on the drawing board, suggesting that the Philippines will indeed become a national market for gambling sin.
For the gamblers, and there are a lot of them worldwide, the Philippines will become $5 billion more fun. That is the amount being put into the project by the developers.
It is so correct for the Philippines, is it not? As Las Vegas was built on Mafia money and the illicit desires of men and women for the thrills of gambling risk and high living, the Philippine casinos will thrive on a culture that holds its arms wide open to "soft sins" with a wink and a nod, and a lot of money under the table. This a macho plan for a macho city populated by macho men and star-gazing women. It will build on the backbone of malls and hotels already in place and launch the Philippines into the modern world.
So Manila will be anchored on two huge pillars. The casinos and the cathedrals. What a place, what a place. Talk about schizoid values.
I wonder if the project will have a cathedral within the one square kilometer. You know, kind of like throwing a tip to God. Can we get overnight weddings installed, like Vegas?
The middle of the project ought to be a strobe-lighted fountain surrounding a huge bronze sculpture . . . bigger than that one of Rizal or Daddy Aquino . . . a wallet nailed to a cross.
A bit of snit hit the fan when the Gaming Board of the Philippines was accused of taking $100,000 bribe for okaying the Okada project. The gaming officials said it simply helped cover their expenses. You know how costly that research in Macau can be. The issue died because the billionaires also own the media and who wants dirt thrown on such a glitzy party?
I'm sure there will be all kinds of sneaky goings on associated with this huge project. Face it. The Philippine standards of right and wrong are a tad slippery. Will there be any drugs around, do you suppose? Fighting for turf? Any prostitutes? Any muscular thugs collecting on loans gone south? Any thieves or beggars? Any kickbacks to get one's business situated in a prime location? Sky jackings. Car jackings. Kidnaps. Murders. Terrorist attacks.
I foresee a lot of fornication going on.
Manila will be the flashiest underbelly in the world.
The flow-down from the project ought to be spectacular. Maybe the airlines will finally be able to afford proper servicing of their planes. Maybe the taxis will finally be able to get the meters fixed. Ah, and the food, the restaurants! I hope you like Korean spicy cabbage and Chinese duck's feet, because that is mainly what we are talking about here, Koreans and Chinese. Hotel rooms. Malls. Clothing shops. The works.
Can you imagine how many new jobs these projects will bring? Hotel workers, security staff, casino workers, cleaning crews, restaurant workers. Ladies of the day and night. It's jaw dropping impressive, truly.
Beats a strip of sleazy bars serving drunk American sailors.
Somehow, I think it will no longer be possible to refer to the Philippines as a "Banana Republic". This development is that profound.
Forget eco-tourism and a sweaty climb up rebel infested Mt. Apo. Forget scuba diving into the bombed out coral reefs. Forget all that wholesome crap. Bring on the lights and legs, baby! Lights and legs!
Roll 'em! Deal 'em! Spin 'em!
Manila, the Rip-Roaring Fun Center of Asia.
It's more fun going broke in the Philippines.