Boxing and casinos – the perfect partnership?
Since the 70s, when the big boxing matches were shifted from New York to the desert of Las Vegas and to the beaches of Atlantic City, casinos and boxing enjoy an often close relationship. Las Vegas casinos are usually eager to hold big duels with you. Interesting encounters often attract up to 15,000 visitors, including many celebrities.
Michael French is managing director of the brand new Solaire casino resort in Pasay City, a suburb of Manila, Philippines. It is the first of four casinos to open its doors in the so-called Entertainment City. Run by Bloombery Resorts Corporation, the casino went live in March this year.
The other three will follow in the next few years. The Belle Grande Melco Crown is due to open its doors in 2014. Tiger Resorts, owned by Japanese casino magnate Kazuo Okada, is set to follow in 2015 and Resorts World Bayshore by Alliance Global Group Inc. and Genting Hong Kong Ltd. either 2016 or 2017. Analysts estimate that the revenue generated by gambling after completion would be roughly equivalent to that of Singapore.
The enthusiasm and excitement that brings a boxing event in a casino, are not unknown to him. French was a manager at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, from 1995 to 1998, at a time when the casino was both the title fight between Lennox Lewis and Andrew Golota and the now-classic battle between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe.
French hopes to apply the findings to the Solaire Casino. According to his experience, the visitor profiles of boxing enthusiasts and table game fans coincide. Both areas are dominated by men who are particularly risk-averse. In addition, a fight with well-known boxers also attracts celebrities and in Las Vegas he has experienced how the whole city cheered.
So when ABS-CBN, the leading television broadcaster in the Philippines, started looking for Colombian challenger Jorle Estrada after the venue for the next fight of the WBO flyweight champion, Merlito Sabillo of the Philippines, Michael French seized the opportunity and succeeded in offering the Solaire as a venue. The event on July 13 attracted, as desired, not only about 1500 spectators, but also many of the local celebrities.
French also considered the Ultimate Fighting World Cup as a potential event. To arouse local interest, it was necessary, however, that a Filipino fought. In his opinion, a boxing event of global importance could be held only in cooperation with another venue, because the event room of the Solaire casino was too small. A special coup would be to hold a duel with Manny Pacquiao, the world-famous Filipino boxer. The world’s second-best paid boxer has not fought in their own country since 2006, but the more casinos in Asia fill with high-rollers, the more attractive they become as a venue.
So while the Solaire has to settle for a live broadcast of Pacquiao’s fight against Brandon Rios of Macao on November 23, French welcomes that soon the rival casinos in Entertainment City will open. Everyone involved would benefit from the increased interest in this location.
Thus, the guests have more choices, which attracts a larger audience, like in the game with the free NZ pokies. Entertainment City is an integral part of the Philippines tourism plan. The aim is to compete with long-term destinations such as Singapore and Macao and increasingly attract international guests and gambling tourists. Las Vegas and Macao have done it – can Entertainment City follow suit?