MANILA MEGA-COMPLEX GETS $400M. INFUSION FROM THREE INVESTORS

Investors in a proposed $15 billion entertainment and tourism complex covering 300 hectares of reclaimed land on Manila Bay in the Philippines have jointly made a deposit of US$400 million to jump-start the development.

“The investors put in the deposit as part of the requirement to ensure they are really serious about the investment,” said Efraim Genuino, chairman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, the country’s state-owned gaming regulator and operator.

Genuino said SM Investments, a Philippine commercial development and finance conglomerate, Malaysia-based Genting Berhad and Japanese gaming and amusement machine giant Aruze deposited at least $100 million each to bankroll the first phase of the development, which will include a hotel, sports arena, a retail complex and other attractions.

“The first phase should be completed after three years,” he said. “It is delayed a bit from the original schedule.”

The proposed Bagong Nayong Pilipino-Manila Bay Integrated City, as it’s known, is a tourism resort complex that will be developed on reclaimed land in the capital city and is expected to cost around $15 billion at full build-out.

The government is promoting the project as a vital economic development tool to create employment, revenue and additional business opportunities to allied industries such as construction, information technology, food and beverage, hospitality, entertainment and transportation.



MGM Mirage, Genting: Comrades in arms?

MGM Mirage and Genting Group reportedly are moving closer toward a global partnership on a number of fronts, including possible marketing tie-ups, strategic ventures and other joint actions.

Genting’s recent US$100 million acquisition of a 3.2 percent equity stake in MGM Mirage has added fuel to speculation that cash-rich Genting may be interested in taking over the Las Vegas-based casino giant’s investment in MGM Grand Macau, which has not performed up to expectations and which debt-laden MGM Mirage may be looking to unload.

“MGM will relish the opportunity to get out of Macau,” Sanford Bernstein analyst Janet Brashear told Reuters. “They need the cash and they haven’t been able to succeed in the Macau market.”

In addition to its balance sheet needs, MGM Mirage recently was handed an added incentive to exit Macau after Pansy Ho, a daughter of Stanley Ho’s and MGM Mirage’s partner in Macau, was found unsuitable as a business partner by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman did not directly address either of these issues in a recent interview with The Edge Financial Daily. “We have had specific discussions about Macau but would not rule out Genting’s participation if it made strategic sense for all parties,” he said. “This has great potential to be a very powerful alliance.”

According to a Reuters report, heavily leveraged U.S. casino operators are betting on a rally in stock prices and signs of recovery in Macau’s gaming market to spur interest from investors.

Wynn Resorts has entertained plans for a public offering of its Macau holdings, and Las Vegas Sands is reported to be preparing an IPO of its Macau casinos and has hired Goldman Sachs as an advisor.

According to Reuters, what’s fueling the activity is a desire to monetize Macau assets in order to support struggling operations in Las Vegas, bankers and analysts say.

After dropping 21 percent in the first three months of the year, Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index has risen 62 percent since its low in March, luring potential IPO candidates such as Sands and Wynn back to the market.



BEIJING MANDATES ANTI-GAMBLING SOFTWARE FOR ALL COMPUTERS

As of July 1 all personal computers sold in China will be required to contain software blocking access to designated Web sites, including online gambling sites.

The government already has instructed manufacturers doing business in the country of the rule, whose purpose, officials say, is to protect children from potentially harmful Internet content. Pornography is listed as the primary target, but online casinos will be included.

Software developed by Jinhui Computer System Engineering Company will be placed inside all computers for sale in China. Bryan Zhang, founder of Jinhui, says the company will “transmit new banned addresses to users’ PCs through an Internet update system similar to that used by operating-system software and antivirus programs.”

Observers of Chinese politics expect a quick broadening of the list of banned content if the system proves workable, and there has been rampant speculation as to what political content will be added.



FOREIGN SITES SIPHON NEW ZEALAND BILLIONS

New Zealanders are gambling about A$40 million a week on overseas Web sites, according to a recent survey by the country’s Racing Board.

The survey found that 5.7 percent of New Zealanders are gambling on the sites and on overseas lotteries and sports. They are spending $2.1 billion a year, an average of $223 a week each. If the survey is correct it means that about one-sixth of New Zealand’s total gambling spend is going overseas.

Official figures show that New Zealanders gambled $12.9 billion within the country in the year to last June - just over $10 billion on poker machines in pubs and clubs, $1.5 billion on racing, $778 million on Lotto and $477 million in casinos.



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