In the Philippines, local firm Udenna Development Corporation recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for the $341 million integrated casino resort it is building on the central island of Mactan.

Davao City-based Udenna Development Corporation received provisional approval for the new scheme, which is to be known as The Emerald Resort Hotel and Casino, in early-May and later revealed that it hopes to open the first phase of the development in 2019 complete with a pier-based skydiving center and a retail complex.

The developer stated that The Emerald Resort Hotel and Casino has been designed by American architect Paul Steelman, whose past works include the Mirage Las Vegas and Sands Macao venues, and is to sit on a 30.8-acre plot of beachfront land on the Punta Engano Peninsula in the central province of Cebu some 3.7 miles from Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

“This resort casino can be a lot different from everyone else,” Steelman said during the July 26 groundbreaking ceremony. “It will have grand suites, five-story aquariums, retail malls that will rival the best in Asia among others. It will have gaming areas but we designed it to be family-friendly. The palatial aspect of this building will certainly attract more tourists. Besides, this site is one of the most beautiful in the world.”

Dennis Uy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Udenna Development Corporation, declared that the Emerald Resort Hotel and Casino is to additionally feature iconic modern buildings surrounded by green spaces and infinity pools along with convention facilities that will “play a vital role in transforming Mactan into a premiere tourist destination with a vibrant and thriving economy”.

“Today is not only about The Emerald [Resort Hotel and Casino],” Uy said during last month’s ceremony. “It is about all of us. We break ground for thousands of jobs that will provide countless opportunities and a brighter future for local businesses and entrepreneurs. It is also about showing the best of what Filipino talent and hospitality has to offer.”

In an effort to compete with the likes of Macau and Singapore for the lucrative tax revenues generated from wealthy casino visitors, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation regulator authorized the 296-acre Entertainment City gaming and entertainments zone on the outskirts of Manila in 2002. This area is currently home to three giant integrated casino resorts in the City of Dreams Manila, Solaire Resort and Casino and Okada Manila while a fourth, Resorts World Bayshore, is scheduled to open by the end of next year.

But, March saw Andrea Domingo, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, issue a five-year moratorium on the construction of any new integrated casino resorts near Manila due to over-supply concerns. It is now hoped that the success of The Emerald Resort Hotel and Casino will encourage other firms to consider investing in similar projects outside of the nation’s capital and largest city.

“We hope that in two or three years’ time we will be here again to witness the opening of this project,” Domingo said during the groundbreaking event. “We hope that this will be a precedent for all integrated resorts that will be built outside of Entertainment City in Manila because in Cebu there will be a world-class resort casino that is worth taking a look at.”