The original report was published in the USA Today on Monday, June 20, 2011
First Cagayan at the forefront of gaming
Philippines-based on-line gaming is a big, and strictly legitimate, business
The Philippines is Asia’s first gaming jurisdiction. PAGCOR’s authority covers the entire archipelago with the exception of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport, which is where First Cagayan Leisure & Resort Corporation steps in.
“A company was trying to get into online gaming and in Asia there is no jurisdiction for online gaming,” explains Jose Mari Ponce, CEO and administrator of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA). “We took advantage of that and I promoted Santa Ana (the home of the Cagayan Economic Zone) as the first and only regulated jurisdiction for interactive gaming. That started it.”
A subsidiary of Leisure & Resorts World Corporation (LRWC), First Cagayan acts on behalf of the CEZA to afford gaming operators the chance to become part of a promising business environment, providing an excellent platform to penetrate the gaming markets of the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
Reynaldo P. Bantug, chairman of both First Cagayan and LRWC, explains: “First Cagayan is not actually an operator of any gaming. Instead, we provide software and infrastructure, as well as making sure that all regulations are followed.”
The company’s main activities include the operation, management, establishment, acquisition and leasing of tourism-related facilities and activities. These, in turn, include but are not limited to games, amusements, recreational sports, Internet games, casinos and golf courses.
The Cagayan Zone is located on the northeastern tip of Luzon Island, and encompasses the municipality of Santa Ana and its neighboring islands as well as the municipality of Aparri.
Casinos aside, First Cagayan’s integrated resort on the idyllic northern coast also offers something for the entire family.
“First Cagayan has a unique experience to offer,” explains Mr. Bantug. “Gaming is just one of the components of this resort in North Luzon. The target is also tourism. We have beautiful beaches to offer and the facilities are here, too. It will be a hub for development in the area.”
Currently, there are 45 gaming operators in First Cagayan’s jurisdiction, all of whom underwent a strict screening to ensure legitimacy in the business. “We only give licenses to legitimate operators and we’re very strict in this regard. Probity checks are of the utmost importance. Anybody doing business in the gaming sector has to be strictly above board and legitimate,” comments Mr. Bantug.
It is this transparency that has helped First Cagayan grow its business and attract foreign operators to the Philippines.
“Our business has to be trustworthy and transparent in order to be able to maintain the trust of the market. With regards to First Cagayan, I would say that countries are confident that if they locate here they have legitimacy. For us it is important that we can provide that seal of integrity and this is one of the most essential values of our company,” claims the chairman.
First Cagayan’s mother company LRWC, originally established as an industrial chemicals company that later turned to professional bingo gaming, has teamed up with Belle Corporation, the leading developer of high-end residential and leisure properties, to invest $1 billion in the Belle Grande Marina Bay, an integrated entertainment project that will be built at PAGCOR’s Entertainment City Manila.
With this mega-project, LRWC hopes to attract a significant share of the gaming market to the Philippines. “We believe the entry of our group with Belle will expand the size of the pie. We will not be dividing the pie of the gaming market, but rather expanding it,” says Mr. Bantug.