The odds of a casino coming to the Philippines’ popular vacation destination of Boracay improved dramatically after President Rodrigo Duterte recently lifted his moratorium on island gambling.
Desperate for tax revenue, a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the controversial leader last week said he was reversing his years-long opposition to casino gambling on Boracay. One developer is wasting no time in motioning to build a slots and table game facility.
Billionaire Andrew Tan and his Alliance Global Group have announced plans to build a casino resort at its Boracay Newcoast development. The 150-hectare (370 acres) mixed-used leisure and residential undertaking is being built on the northeastern part of Boracay Island.
We will proceed with our casino project in Boracay Newcoast. We already have several hotels there and we are still building more,” Tan said, as reported by ABS-CBN News in the Philippines.
Alliance Global Group is constructing the multibillion-dollar Newcoast project with its construction subsidiary, Megaworld Corporation. Forbes says Tan, the founder and chairman of both firms, has an estimated net worth of $2.7 billion. That makes him roughly the 1,000th-richest person in the world.
Tan and Megaworld says they are moving full steam ahead with a casino in wake of Duterte’s change of heart. But there are plenty of critics on allowing such a gaming property to arrive on the picturesque island.
It was only three years ago that Duterte closed the entire island to allow it to undergo a six-month cleanup. Prior to the 2018 environmental renovation, Boracay was overrun with sewage, with trash and debris floating in the waters and devastating wildlife.
Duterte at the time said Boracay was a “cesspool” that “smelled of sh*t.” Photos of the island proved as such, as numerous international media outlets, including the Associated Press, snapped filth-filled documentation of the island’s decline.
The island is now back to its pristine self, featuring white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters. That’s following the cleanup that cost more than $1 billion when lost wages and economic activity are factored in.
Many area residents don’t want casinos. Critics believe casino operators will tend much more to their bottom lines than ongoing environment conservation.
Megaworld said in a statement that isn’t true. The firm explained that its casino scheme “will adhere to all government environmental policies,” and the group “remains committed to the protection of the environment in the island.”
One, Maybe Two Casinos
Alliance Global and Megaworld will need to obtain development approvals from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) prior to breaking ground. A second, larger casino could also come to Boracay by way of Galaxy Entertainment.
Duterte blocked Galaxy’s proposed $500 million casino resort on the island in 2018.
You know the billionaires? They want to build casinos there [Boracay]. I did not allow it,” Duterte said three years ago. Galaxy has yet to comment on whether it plans to reignite its Boracay plan.
The 2018 vision for Boracay was a toned-down vacation destination with fewer hotels and restaurants, and a cap of 19,200 visitors on the island at any given time. With tax generation needed, Duterte is deviating far from that plan.
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