Twelve years after launch, popular slot venue Club Tropicana continues to prosper – proving that Manila’s growing gaming market extends well beyond the bright lights of its integrated resorts.
Tucked away in an overtly unassuming building on a small side street in Santa Mesa, Metro Manila, is Club Tropicana – a 1,000 square meter PAGCOR-held slots club that just so happens to be the most lucrative PAGCOR club per slot machine in the country.
It also provides a fascinating glimpse into the Philippines’ locals gaming market, where venues such as this – providing familiarity and comfort rather than the glitz and glamor of Manila’s IRs – saw income from the regulator’s licensed casino operations grow 19.4% in the first nine months of 2019 to Php21.11 billion.
“From our market profiling, it turns out that our players are very comfortable with us because we’ve sort of developed a community go-to entertainment venue for those who want to play, so the market has become very regular,” explains Kat Regalado-Trinanes, Club Tropicana’s Marketing and Logistics Consultant.
“We have seniors in the morning, we have middle aged in the afternoon and then everyone else in the evening. It has been very stable like that and I think that’s how we have maintained the revenues that we have.”
Opened in March 2007, Club Tropicana – which counts Solaire Resort & Casino owner Enrique Razon Jr among its early investors – currently houses 250 slot machines which average around US$200 in revenue per machine, per day.
It does so despite the increased level of competition brought to the Manila market by the emergence of Parañaque’s integrated resorts in the past six years.
According to Regalado-Trinanes, while the likes of Solaire, City of Dreams Manila and Okada Manila caused a definite ripple when first launched, the longer-term impact has been a maturing of the Philippines gaming market at all levels.
“It has changed a lot in the past few years because the market was not used to that sort of extravaganza 10 years ago,” she says.
“We had PAGCOR operations then but they’re nothing like an integrated resort, so when the resorts opened five or six years ago everyone just wanted to see them, to be there and get the experience.
“Immediately after the IRs opened we probably lost 20% of the market for quite some time. But fortunately for us our players are very attached to the location, to the venue and the service of our people so they eventually came back to their home base.”
A more tangible result, explains General Manager Paul Mamangun, can be seen on Club Tropicana’s gaming floor where banks of older slot machines have been replaced with the latest that Aristocrat, Scientific Games and others have to offer.
“We accept that our players have been to the IRs and so they see what’s new and give us information on what they want,” he says. “The market has learned a lot along the way thanks to the IRs.
“They (the IRs) have done a great thing in expanding the market. They have developed the market and brought in not only the tourist but also the local players who have tried it out and are continuing to play. So that has made a big difference to everyone.”
The big test for Club Tropicana and other nearby locations – Mamangun cites close to a dozen small to medium operations between three and five kilometers away – will come once Solaire’s second IR, Solaire North, opens in Quezon City in 2022.
But for all the luxury IRs have brought to the Philippines capital city, Regalado-Trinanes insists there will always be a place for Manila’s slot clubs.
“It’s really a community based market here,” she says. “We recently conducted a survey on demographics and it turns out it’s a very small percentage of our players in terms of origin or location that will go to the new place (Solaire North).
“It’s still easiest for our players to come here. The location is really something that cannot be replicated. It’s a very good location for this community and for this market.”