Philippine regulator says Galaxy's $500 million Boracay casino resort on hold

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines gaming regulator said a plan by Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group to build a $500 million integrated casino resort on a Philippine holiday island is on hold until the company can convince the president of its “advantages”.

A logo of Galaxy Entertainment Group is displayed at a news conference on the company's annual results in Hong Kong, China February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

This is the first time the gaming regulator, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR), has given a clear indication on the status of the project.

It had earlier said there was no confirmation on whether the casino was on hold, according to local media reports, even after presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced there “would be no new casino in Boracay”.

While Galaxy has a provisional license from the gaming regulator, it cannot build its gaming project in Boracay, Roque had said on April 11, adding that President Rodrigo Duterte had not issued an order allowing a new casino on the island.

Boracay, Philippines’ most famous holiday island, has been shut for six months for a clean up, after Duterte called it a “cesspool” due to pollution.

“They (Galaxy) have to probably explain to the president the advantages and that they will comply with the environmental laws,” Alfredo Lim, PAGCOR’s president, told Reuters. He added that the gambling business would focus on foreigners.

Macau’s Galaxy and local partner Leisure and Resorts World Corp last month bagged the provisional license for the casino project from the regulator.

Galaxy told Reuters on April 23 it was seeking clarification from the Philippine side, following Roque’s comments.

Galaxy did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday, while Leisure & Resorts World declined to comment.

Duterte on Sunday said no casino would be put up in Boracay, and he did not approve any gaming project because of the “deleterious effects” of gambling.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Additional Reporting by Farah Master in Hong Kong; Editing by Himani Sarkar