January 17, 2008 10:54 a.m. EST
Joseph Dela Cruz - AHN News Writer
Manila, Philippines (AHN) - Harrah's Entertainment Inc., the world's biggest casino operator, is meeting officials from the Philippines for the second time next month to seriously look into the possibility of putting up a multi-billion dollar gaming project inside the Subic Bay Freeport and Special Economic Zone (SBFSEZ).
Senator Richard Gordon, who was a former Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman, told reporters in an interview recently that the idea is to help the Freeport area become attractive to gambling tourists coming from the Asia-Pacific Region.
Gordon said the Philippines should take advantage of Harrah's future plan to expand in the region since it could no longer locate in Singapore or Macau where the issuance of casino licenses is limited to existing operators.
In Macau, there were three licenses issued plus another three sub-licenses, while the Singapore government has only allowed the presence of two operators, Gordon explained.
With world-class casino operators such as Hannah's doing operations in the Philippines, the whole of Subic including Clark could easily become a top tourist destination especially with the presence of three airports and two seaports.
According to Gordon, he has already talked to top executives of Harrah's to discuss the prospects of Subic as its most ideal site for expansion in the region. He said prospects were good but another follow-up meeting may be needed to finally lure the company.
He said he is scheduled to leave for Las Vegas next month to meet some of the company's executives.
SBMA administrator Armand Arreza, in the same interview, said inviting world-class casino operators to do business inside the Freeport area is in line with the government's plan to develop casino resorts either within the zone or outside Subic where the same fiscal incentives will also be offered to interested parties.
Harrah's operates eight luxury casino hotels in Las Vegas and manages 40 casinos in three countries. The company is led by Philip Satre and Gar Loveman.
In December 2006, Harrah's entered a $17 billion buyout offer from private equity firms Apollo management and Texas Pacific Group. It went public in 1971 and acquired Holiday Inn in 1980.
Other acquisitions include Rio Hotel and Casino, Inc. in 1999 for $888 million; Caesars Entertainment, Inc. (Bally's Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Paris) for $5.2 billion. Ceasar's was the casino spin-off of Hilton Hotels; It has bought the Horseshoe brand name when it purchased Horseshoe Gaming Holding Co. until 2005 when it sold the casino to MTR; bought the Imperial Palace in 2005 for $370 million.