Will Manila’s multi-billion gamble at Entertainment City pay off?

An assembly of gaming and entertainment resorts along Manila Bay could give Las Vegas and Macau a run for their money


Designed to become the Philippines’ new tourism magnet, Entertainment City, or officially ‘Bagong Nayong Pilipino – Entertainment City’ (literally, a ‘new Filipino town’), is playing a very risky game. Stakes are high for the massive, 800-hectare Las Vegas-style complex, as its four, privately funded integrated resort projects – two are already in operation – will directly compete with the success of modern casinos in neighbouring Macau. Riding high on the country’s economic resurgence in recent years, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR)’s USD15 billion-plus gamble could potentially change the way investors and visitors view Manila.

If all goes to plan, the complex will also feature The Manila Eye, a gigantic observational wheel, which will be partially submerged in the sea. Just as life emerged from the shores, a rebirth could be on the cards for the Philippines’ biggest metropolis.

1. Solaire Resort & Casino

Launched in March 2013, the 8.3-hectare resort was the first integrated development inside PAGCOR’s ‘new town’ along ASEAN Avenue. Solaire comprises a world-class, two-level gaming space covering 18,500 sqm, as well as 500 luxury hotel suites and bayside villas, designed by architect Paul Steelman. Owned and operated by Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels of Filipino tycoon Enrique K. Razon Jr, and currently led by former Marina Bay Sands CEO Thomas Arasi, Solaire also offers a selection of international restaurants and clubs, including the widely popular Red Lantern, its signature Cantonese diner. A 1,760-seat theatre is also under construction as part of the resort’s expansion.

2. APU Filipino Restaurant

Taking its name from a local Kampampangan term for ‘grandmother’, APU is one of the culinary highlights at Entertainment City. Despite its contemporary and elegant interiors, the restaurant, situated on the corner of ASEAN Avenue and Roxas Boulevard, feels very intimate and invitingly familiar. APU’s specialty is authentic, popular Filipino dishes, such as beef kare-kare (beef shank in peanut sauce and coconut milk) and pork adobo, among others, and is a great introduction to local cuisine.

3. City of Dreams Manila

The USD1 billion-plus City of Dreams Manila is the realisation of Melco Crown Entertainment’s dreams to bring the successful resort brand to Philippine shores. Offering first-class gaming, dining, shopping and lodging facilities – at Crown Towers, Hyatt City or Nobu Hotel – the project, developed by MCE Leisure (Philippines) Corporation in cooperation with SM Group’s Belle Corporation, caters to families, business executives and luxury travellers. It has even received the stamp of approval from Hollywood stars such as Robert De Niro (who personally visited the site in 2014), Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, who filmed a Brett Ratner-produced promotional TV campaign for the complex that was played during its formal opening ceremony last February.

4. DreamPlay by DreamWorks

Billed as an all-new interactive “edu-tainment centre” inside City of Dreams Manila, the new theme park dubbed DreamPlay by DreamWorks can hold up to 1,200 visitors at a time, and each guest can complete all the experiences inside the educational theme park in at least four hours. Guests are invited to “play, create and learn” while interacting with popular DreamWorks Animation characters, including Shrek and Donkey, the gang from ‘Kung Fu Panda’, and the cast of ‘Madagascar’ and ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ franchises.

5. Bayshore City

From leading Philippine master developer Megaworld Corporation, Bayshore City is a city within Entertainment city, with residential, hospitality, retail, leisure, entertainment and gaming components. Among the upcoming projects include Bayshore Residential Resorts, an upscale community comprising six residential clusters. A Grand Opera House is also set to rise inside Bayshore City, as well as its own world-class casino called Resorts World Bayshore, a USD1.1 billion joint venture between tycoon and township advocate Dr. Andrew L. Tan’s Alliance Global Group and Malaysia-based Genting Group, slated for a 2018 opening.

6. Manila Bay Resorts

Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada, head of Tokyo-based Universal Entertainment, partly chose Manila to establish his latest casino project due its proximity to China, a large resource for overseas players. Set to tentatively open at the end of 2016, the Manila Bay Resorts will be owned and operated by Okada’s Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc arm and a local partner, with a development budget of USD2.3 billion. Aside from world-class gaming facilities that could compare to the finest casinos in Las Vegas, Singapore and Macau, the Manila Bay Resorts will also feature retail, hospitality and wellness components. It will also have a 10,000 sqm indoor beach club, covered by an 8,500 sqm glass dome.