MANILA, June 24 Philippine casino operator Bloomberry Resorts Corp aims to complete the second phase of its $1.2 billion Solaire casino resort project in 15 months and hopes to turn a profit in less than five years, its chairman said on Monday.
Bloomberry is spending 21 billion pesos ($480 million) on the second phase, which involves a new hotel, high-end retail outlets, theatres and more restaurants, Enrique Razon said. It is fully funded and 40 percent complete, he added.
The company is racing to finish off the project - the first fully integrated casino and hotel resort in the Philippine capital's new Entertainment City complex - in the face of competition from the likes of Melco Crown (Philippines) Resorts Corp.
"Solaire is thick into the process of ramping up its gaming business and we are looking to open a new 308-suite hotel and more entertainment facilities by the third quarter of next year," he told reporters after a stockholders' meeting.
Melco Philippines said on Friday it was on track to open its entire $1 billion gaming complex in Entertainment City by mid-2014. Melco Philippines is a unit of Macau casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd.
Asked if he expected Bloomberry to start making money in five years, Razon said: "I hope it's shorter than that. We're getting a lot of visitors and it's ramping up quite nicely."
On a typical weekend, he said Solaire accepted between 15,000 and 16,000 visitors.
Bloomberry incurred a net loss of 1.1 billion pesos in the first quarter as expenses rose to 1.8 billion pesos, more than triple Solaire's gaming revenue of 578.3 million pesos from its first 15 days of operation in March.
Shares of Bloomberry fell 4.1 percent on Monday morning, stretching its losses this year to more than 24 percent. The Philippines' main stock index ended the morning session down 2.1 percent.
Bloomberry opened Solaire on March 16 in the 100-hectare (247-acre) Entertainment City, a new gaming destination for Asian high-rollers. Three other casino firms, including Japan's Universal Entertainment Corp, are set to operate there within the next three years.
Industry regulator Philippine Amusement Gaming Corp (Pagcor) expects the country's gaming industry to generate total revenue of $2.5 billion this year with the opening of Solaire.
By 2017, Pagcor sees annual casino revenue in the Philippines hitting $10 billion with all four casino resorts in Entertainment City up and running, surpassing Singapore and Las Vegas but well below the $38 billion recorded last year in Macau, the world's gambling capital.
The biggest of the four projects is a $2 billion casino-hotel complex planned by a unit of Japan's Universal Entertainment Corp. (Reporting by Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Stephen Coates)