Melco Crown boosts investment in Philippines casino project

MANILA (AFP) - Macau developer Melco Crown Entertainment is raising its investment in an US$1 billion (S$1.25 billion) casino project in the Philippines to offer more gaming tables and luxury hotel rooms, the company said on Wednesday.

The "City of Dreams Manila" project, to open in mid-2014, will now require an initial outlay of US$680 million, or US$60 million more than previously announced, its chief executive Lawrence Ho said in Manila.

"We think it's going to be money well spent. As a company we make sure that there's good value in terms of where we put the money in," he told a brief news conference.

The casino is a joint venture with the SM Group of Chinese-Filipino billionaire Henry Sy, the Philippines' wealthiest man.

The project is one of four holders of government franchises to build four US$1 billion casinos. They will be located in a gaming enclave constructed by the government on reclaimed land in Manila Bay and called Entertainment City.

Manila hopes the four-casino cluster will enable it to vault past Singapore as the world's second-largest gaming destination after Macau.

A Melco Crown statement said amendments to Philippine gaming regulations had allowed it to increase the number of gaming tables and electronic gaming machines during the start of its commercial operations.

The increased budget was also due to the company's decision to use its high-end "City of Dreams" and "Crown Towers" brands for the 6.2-hectare (15.3-acre) property, it added.

Ho did not say what the total expected project cost will now be after the entire City of Dreams is completed.

The first of the four casinos, Solaire Resorts, opened in March, while Malaysia's Genting Group and Universal Entertainment Corp of Japan tycoon Kazuo Okada will build the two others.

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