Belle may apply for 2nd gaming license

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City of Dreams Manila

BELLE CORP. looks to apply for a second gaming license with the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) in a bid to level the playing field with its competitors.

Belle President and Chief Executive Officer Manuel A. Gana cited how other licensees in Metro Manila, namely Bloomberry Resorts Corp. and Travellers International Hotel Group, Inc. (TIHGI), each have two gaming licenses.

TIHGI currently operates Resorts World Manila in Pasay City, and is set to open Westside City casino resort by 2021. Meanwhile, Bloomberry owns and operates Solaire Resort and Casino, and is scheduled to start construction on its second casino called Solaire North in Quezon City this year.

“When he (Bloomberry Chairman Enrique K. Razon, Jr.) does that (opens Solaire North), we’d be totally in our rights to ask PAGCOR for a second license to level the playing field. So that’s definitely on our mind,” Mr. Gana told reporters after the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Pasay City Monday.

Belle leases land to integrated resort and casino City of Dreams Manila, out of which it gets a share in gaming revenues.

“We figured it’s going to be easier once Solaire opens the Quezon City casino…the thing is to be flexible based on unfolding economic and political situations, so we will have to seek an opening,” he added.

Mr. Gana declined to comment on whether their second gaming facility will be within Metro Manila, since they have yet to secure the license from PAGCOR.

“Right now the hope is to get a license…we’re not partial. In fact some provincial locations are even better than Metro Manila, or Clark,” Mr. Gana said.

The listed firm also disclosed yesterday that net income dropped by 19% to P700 million in the first quarter of 2019, compared to the P851 million it generated in the same period a year ago. Revenues also slipped by six percent to P1.9 billion during the January to March period.

Belle attributed the slower performance to weaker results from Pacific Online Systems Corp., which is partially held by subsidiary Premium Leisure Corp. (PLC). PLC’s attributable profit also dropped by four percent to P495.06 million during the period.

Pacific Online leases online betting equipment to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for its lottery and keno operations.

“It’s hard because the main reason is the PCSO legalized small town lottery and allowed it to operate side by side with the electronic lottery. And since our ticket prices are higher because of the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) Law, and because TRAIN Law taxes winnings now versus small town lottery, we have a disadvantage,” Mr. Gana explained.

Mr. Gana said Pacific Online is looking at a way to control costs as well as other business options to reduce its reliance on electronic lottery.

“But our core businesses, City of Dreams, both gaming and lease, continue to do well so we expect those to do well for 2019. Pacific Online we hope it will stabilize at least,” Mr. Gana said.

Shares in Belle dropped 1.61% or four centavos to close at P2.45 each at the stock exchange on Monday. — Arra B. Francia