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2017 Inside Asian Gaming Power 50: Number Nine - Enrique Razon Jr

Tuesday, 05 December 2017 14:02
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9 Enrique Razon Jr

Bloomberry Resorts



• Emerging as face of Philippines gaming
• Became a billionaire taking family ports business global
• Owns Solaire in Manila and Jeju Sun in South Korea

It’s not unusual to spot Enrique Razon – friends call him Ricky – in blue jeans and an oxford shirt chatting with staff and customers at Solaire, the US$1.2 billion integrated resort that blazed the trail in Entertainment City, the casino hub on Manila Bay. The billionaire ports magnate thinks globally and acts locally.

He made billions expanding the family’s port operations business worldwide with a maverick streak, telling a Forbes CEO Forum he’s anxious to do business where others fear to tread. He believes ports experience provides contacts and business culture insights that can further his gaming ambitions, particularly in Latin America, which shares the Philippines’ Iberian colonial heritage. He’s targeted Argentina, noting that it has casinos but not on the scale of integrated resorts pioneered in the US and refined in Asia. In South Korea, his Manila listed hospitality company Bloomberry Resorts has land in Incheon and Jeju Sun casino hotel on the popular tourist island. Right now, though, Bloomberry is onto a very good thing at home.

Solaire opened its doors in March 2013, the second privately operated casino in Manila and first of four licensed for Pagcor’s Entertainment City, the Philippine government regulator and casino operator’s attempt at creating a casino cluster on 120 waterfront hectares in the nation’s economic hub. Observers praise Solaire, designed by Paul Steelman, as a game changer, introducing Las Vegas style and international panache to help unlock the market’s potential.

But Solaire had teething problems. Six months in, Mr Razon fired Global Gaming Asset Management, William Weidner’s group, as operator. GGAM has won battles in arbitration but Mr Razon likely won the war. He installed Thomas Arasi – who opened Marina Bay Sands – as president and COO, and within a year Solaire had overtaken Resorts World Manila as market leader.

Opening SkyTower in late 2014 elevated Solaire to a regional destination. Solaire Director for Interior Design Samantha Drummond crafted 312 elegant yet comfortable suites above a twin waterfall lobby. SkyTower provides shopping, bright VIP suites, retail and a Broadway style theater that attracts a wide swathe of Manila demographics for local and international touring shows.

Solaire has gained as Entertainment City fills in around it, with City of Dreams Manila opening in December 2014 and Okada Manila last December, shifting the capital’s center of gaming gravity its way. Bloomberry’s gaming revenue, including Jeju Sun, increased 23% in the first nine months of 2017 to Php34.6 billion (US$675 million) and EBITDA rose to Php10.2 billion. Morgan Stanley analysts Praveen Choudhary and Alex Poon forecast over US$1 billion GGR for Solaire in 2019.

Bloomberry is the lone Philippine casino licensee without a foreign owner or partner, boosting Mr Razon’s profile as the face of Philippine casinos while he aspires to global gaming’s first tier. When he warns against gaming overcapacity in Manila while planning a US$400 million casino hotel and convention center in Quezon City, a densely populated area at the other end of Metro Manila from Entertainment City, Mr Razon shows an abundance of chutzpah, or gall, on par with gaming’s top rank.

To return to the full list of 2017 Asian Gaming Power 50 winners, click here.

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