April 9, 2015 / 8:57 AM / in 2 years

U.S. group and Macau gaming firm propose two Philippine casinos

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HONG KONG, April 9 (Reuters) - A U.S. investment group and a Macau-based gaming operator said they are in talks with regulatory authorities in the Philippines to spend $1 billion on two new casino resorts, potentially heating up competition in a rapidly growing gambling market.

The Philippines, like South Korea, has emerged as one of Asia's hottest gambling hubs, as China's crackdown on corruption scares wealthy Chinese punters away from Macau - the world's biggest gaming centre.

Sino-American Gaming Investment Group, controlled by Denver- based consultant RiskWise Group, and Macau Resources Group told Reuters they have proposed large scale resorts - one on Cebu, an island popular with tourists and one on the island of Napayawan, near a proposed airport.

Francis Hernando, vice president at gaming licensing and development at regulator PAGCOR, said while letters of intention from the groups had been received, the regulator currently had no categorical position on the proposals as it is working on an existing pipeline of resorts.

The proposals, however, may be viewed favorably as the locations are away from Manila, which already has two in Entertainment City, an area modelled on the Las Vegas strip with another two set to open in the next three years.

"For areas outside of metro Manila, especially in underserved areasthe chances of looking into a casino license would be higher than in Manila," Hernando said.

Michael Foxman, managing director of Sino-American Gaming, said hotel chain Banyan Tree would take part in the development and that they were also negotiating with the Marriott group. They have also signed on with a Las Vegas partner for entertainment.

The Philippines gaming market is expected to grow up to 20 percent over the next three years to become a $4.8 billion market, Macquarie Research said in a January report.

Other international companies that have proposed casinos include U.S. gaming firm Caesars Entertainment Corp which tapped regulators at the end of 2014 for a spot in Manila.

Melco Crown, owned by Australian billionaire James Packer and Macau businessman Lawrence Ho, opened the City of Dreams resort in Entertainment City this year.

Entertainment City is also home to the Solaire resort owned by Bloomberry Resorts Corp which said the group posted its highest gaming revenue on record in the last quarter of 2014 and now has 64 junket operators that are actively targeting foreign players. (Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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