MANILA -- Hong Kong-listed Landing International Development has won a permit to build a $1.5 billion resort with a casino in the Philippine capital's entertainment district.
In a statement on Wednesday, Landing said it secured a provisional gaming license from regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., or Pagcor, to build the integrated resort. A groundbreaking ceremony has been set for Aug. 7.
Pagcor confirmed in a statement on Thursday that it had granted the provisional license but said the Landing resort will not be able to open before 2022 in order to comply with a five-year halt on new casino permits in the Manila Bay entertainment district.
The facility, which will be built on 9.5 hectares of reclaimed land near Manila Bay, will feature a casino, an indoor cultural theme park, a water park, Asia's first and largest "indoor movie-based theme park," a convention center, luxury hotels as well as retail and dining spaces, according to Landing.
Landing's license was granted despite President Rodrigo Duterte's ban on new casinos in the country, which has seen a number of glittering gambling hubs built in recent years. Officials said the president, who imposed the freeze order early this year, did not want an oversupply in the industry.
Pagcor announced the five-year freeze on casino licenses last year after the four existing operators flagged concerns about oversupply. Operators Bloomberry Resorts, Macau's Melco Resorts and Entertainment, Japan's Universal Entertainment, Malaysia's Genting Group and their local partners had pledged to invest at least $1 billion each in these facilities.
Pagcor also granted two casino licenses for Boracay island, but Duterte said he would not authorize the establishment of casinos on the tourist destination, which was closed to the public in April for a six-month cleanup. These moves highlight what some call inconsistent government policy on casino gambling in the Philippines.
Landing's new casino will be named NayonLanding. Nayon means small village in Tagalog.
Landing operates a theme park and casino in South Korea's Jeju Island, its lone major project so far. But it sees the Philippines -- which is attracting growing numbers of Chinese and Korean tourists -- as a launchpad for its Southeast Asian expansion.
"This investment is an ideal opportunity for us to strategically expand Landing's footprint into Southeast Asia, hence taking a major step toward Landing International's aspiration to be a leading premium integrated resort operator in the region," said Chairman Yang Zhihui.
"NayonLanding will be able to leverage on the growing brand equity in Jeju Shinhwa World to attract more Koreans and tourists in the region to visit the Philippines," Yang added.