Cabinet divided over entry of US casino operator in PH

'CABINET DEBATE.' President Benigno Aquino III is awaiting the Cabinet recommendation on Caesars Entertainment’s bid to obtain a license to operate in the Philippines. File photo from the Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – Cabinet officials are divided over the possible entry of Caesars Entertainment Corporation (CZR) – America's largest casino operator – in the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III said on Wednesday, October 22.

Asked about the status of CZR's plan to apply for a license to operate in the country at the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Aquino said, "That is subject to debate amongst the Cabinet....I’m still awaiting the consensus coming from the Cabinet when they present it to me."

He said that "there are sectors that are saying they (CZR) will not add to the gaming industry and the revenues, therefore, of government; there is a sector that says Caesars is a brand name that kind of tells the world that we’re, in a sense, we have arrived."

In his 4-hour technical stop in Los Angeles in September, the last leg of his working visit to the US, Aquino met with CZR chairman Gary Loveman and Steven Tight, president of CZR's international developing unit, upon their request. They expressed their interest to build a billion-dollar resort in the country.

So far, Aquino said only the Department of Tourism supports the proposal, while the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation is against it, while the Department of Finance “is in between the two.”

"At the end of the day, they come in, is there a net gain or a net minus? And that is what I’m asking or waiting from the Cabinet clusters concerned to come up....We’re reviewing whether or not it is worth...all the attendant hassles," he said, adding that the proposed casino-resort is expected to be opposed by the Church.

Aquino said CZR executives told him that the gaming aspect of their proposed Philippine venture only comprises 30% of the income, while the remaining 70% will come from the resort/entertainment aspect.