Solaire unfazed by China VIP decline

Filipino billionaire Enrique K. Razon Jr, Chairman and CEO of Bloomberry Resorts Corporation is not as fazed by the corruption crackdown that has left so many VIP gaming tables vacant across Asia, according to an interview with The Inquirer.

Bloomberry Resorts Corp., the holding company for the Solaire Casino, from the outset has been tapping into gamblers from outside of China, unlike many operators in Macau, Singapore and Korea, Razon Jr said.

“People have such a misconception of the problem with the Chinese gaming market,” Razon told the Inquirer. “Our relationship with China soured in 2011, so we never started off with China gamers because they could not come here. Some of them had visa issues.”

“We focused on other high rollers,” Razon said. “We had Chinese coming from Macau, Hong Kong, and we developed a good market in Taiwan. We have a very good market in Malaysia, and then other countries followed.”

Instead of mimicking the experience of other casinos in the region, which was based on a high number of Chinese players from the outset, Solaire started with very few, and is now seeing an uptrend of players unwilling to travel to Macau.

“Recently, because of the crackdown last year in Macau, we started getting China players, little by little. That’s been growing steadily. Some moved to us, especially those who really like gaming and can’t go to Macau. We also get some from Singapore.”

However, even if Chinese VIP players never return to the tables, the casino boss is confident the business will continue to grow.

“Absolutely, we will grow,” he said. “Gaming in the Philippines has been growing. Even the mass market has been growing.”

On the topic of strategy, Razon gave a more nuanced view on the strategy that all local and foreign casino operators are adopting as a result of the drop in Chinese VIP numbers, the de-emphasizing of gaming and the focus on non-gaming revenue streams.

“The bulk of the revenues will still be from gaming,” Razon said. “But once the gaming market matures, more investments and more developments will go into the non gaming aspects. Here we are a little different from Macau. In that sense, we’re more like Las Vegas where non gaming is becoming a big attraction.”

When asked about Phase 2, Razon said “We will spend more at the right time,” but did not give a timeframe for development. “We still have land for expansion. Once we’re fully efficient here and have maximized the existing facility, we will go into Phase 2.”

Razon also stressed the need for improvements to the country’s infrastructure system, including a new airport and a new integrated subway system.