PAGCOR touts advantages of casino move to Luneta

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Rizal Park in Manila -- BW FILE PHOTO
People visit the monument of National Hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal as the Philippines celebrates its 114th Independence day in Manila, Philippines. June 12, 2012. Background: Cultural and environment activists are trying to enlist public support to block the construction of a high-rise condominium building that they claim will destroy the public’s view of the Rizal Monument in Rizal Park. Tour guide Carlos Celdran has initiated an online petition and has even put up a Facebook page to call on DMCI Holdings to abandon its plan to build the 41-story Torre de Manila Condominium on Taft Avenue, behind the lot previously occupied by the Manila Jai Alai building.

THE RELOCATION of one of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) casinos to the site of the Manila Army and Navy Club will go ahead following legal snags that delayed casino developer Vanderwood Management Corporation (VMC) from proceeding.

“After carefully weighing the odds, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation proceeded with the opening of Casino Filipino (CF) Manila Bay as it was deemed advantageous to the Corporation and the government,” PAGCOR said in a statement yesterday.

Casino Filipino will move to the Rizal Park Hotel, also known as the Manila Army and Navy Club, from the Manila Pavilion along Roxas boulevard, a site leased from Acesite (Phils.) Hotel Corp.

The gaming regulator affirmed that the deal would be advantageous, as it would only be paying a monthly rent of P13 million to VMC, which is less than half of the P28 million it is currently paying Acesite in the Manila Pavilion facility.

“This translates to an annual savings of close to P200 million in rental fees. At CF Manila Bay, the Corporation will be provided a minimum of 100 secured parking slots, with 50 free slots exclusively for PAGCOR’s use, a clear contrast from the 16 basement parking slots being paid monthly at P2,500 each,” PAGCOR said.

“The transfer from its old site to CF-Manila Bay project provides much advantage for PAGCOR and the government,” it added.

Legislators earlier alleged there were irregularities in the relocation deal after PAGCOR awarded Vanderwood the P3.2-billion lease in 2015, questioning the P13 million a month rent agreement over 15 years.

PAGCOR has paid a total of P234 million representing 12 months of advance rental payment and six months’ security deposit in 2015, even with no gaming facility established. PAGCOR however was able to recover the deposits after the Commission on Audit issued a Notice of Disallowance.

“Despite the ongoing legal squabble and protests, PAGCOR considers the transfer to its new site as favorable to PAGCOR and the government,” the statement read.

Moreover, Vanderwood will shoulder the maintenance cost of the leased premises every five years by way of repainting, replacement of toilet fixtures, replacement and upgrade of CCTV equipment and adjuncts, and change of theme or motif including the floor carpets, according to PAGCOR.

“The Corporation likewise exercised frugality in its decision to move to CF Manila Bay as there was no escalation clause in its contract. Under the contract on its old site, there was a 5% escalation on the third and fourth year of the lease,” it said.

PAGCOR, the government’s third-largest revenue-generating agency, said it generated P28.27 billion in gross gaming revenue in the first six months of the year, up 8.38% from the P26.08 billion recorded in the same period a year earlier. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan