Bright lights, gaming and leisure, and balmy, tropical weather— these words don’t just describe entertainment tourism stalwarts like Las Vegas and Macau. When it comes to leisure, there’s a new kid on the proverbial block, and it looks like it’s aiming to be a powerhouse. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR)’s Entertainment City has been in operation for several years, and is well on its way to transforming the face of Philippine tourism.
With integrated resorts and casinos, as well as dozens of high-end shopping and dining prospects, Entertainment City showcases the best of Philippine entertainment tourism. Here’s a primer on what you can expect from the glitz and glamor of this expanding gaming and entertainment complex.
Building Context: the Philippines and Gaming
To understand the context that led to the establishment of the Entertainment City, it’s important to revisit the whys and hows of the organization in charge of its management— PAGCOR. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation was formally created in 1977 and finalized in 1983 under then-President Ferdinand Marcos to combat the growing spate of illegal casinos in the country. The corporation was charged with three mandates: First, to regulate all games of chance in the Philippines, with special focus on casinos; second, to raise funds for social programs and other national development efforts; and third, to boost the country’s tourism industry.
It wasn’t until 1986 that the Philippine government became directly involved in the operation and management of casinos, which have since produced billions of pesos in revenue. PAGCOR’s original charter was to operate for 25 years, but in June 2007 the Philippine Congress voted to pass Republic Act 9847, which extended the operations of PAGCOR for another 25 years.
While the Philippines has been a hotspot for tourism for several decades now thanks to its tropical beaches and natural wonders, it has been lagging behind other Asian nations in terms of luxury and entertainment. However, Forbes Magazine reported in 2017 that Manila is the next luxury hotspot to look out for— and that’s thanks to the mega casino resorts in Entertainment City.
The History of Entertainment City
Entertainment City is an 8 square kilometer complex that was first envisioned by PAGCOR in 2002, and sits at the western side of Roxas Boulevard and south of SM Central Business Park. Officially, the project was named the Bagong Nayong Pilipino-Entertainment City through an Executive Order by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and has been declared a PEZA-approved economic zone. In 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte renamed the complex as the Expo Pilipino Entertainment City, after the exposition for the centennial of Philippine independence in 1998.
Plans for construction of the complex formally launched in 2007, with the aim to make Metro Manila’s Bay Area— the westward patch of land that faces the spectacular Manila Bay sunset— a luxury and gaming area to rival those of Macau and Las Vegas. In addition, the proximity of the location to the airport and shopping hotspots like SM Mall of Asia made it prime real estate for PAGCOR’s vision.
Investment in the Entertainment City reached up to USD 15 billion, scaled down from initial goals of USD 20 billion. Four operators pledged at least USD 1 billion each to build and operate casinos in the area, and Business Mirror reports that a fifth player may enter the City. Of the initial four, three casinos and resorts are currently in operation— Bloomberry Resorts Corp.’s Solaire Resort and Casino; SM group, Melco Resorts, and Entertainment (Philippines) Corp.’s City of Dreams; and Universal Entertainment Corp.’s Okada Manila. The fourth, Genting Hong Kong and AGI’s Westside City Resorts World, formerly known as Resorts World Bayshore, is currently under construction.
Solaire Resort and Casino
The first among the casino resorts to rise in the Entertainment City complex, Solaire Resort and Casino also holds the distinction of being the tallest hotel in the Manila Bay area. After opening in 2013, it’s become one of the top spots in the country for glitz, glamor, and some great fine dining. Solaire Resort and Casino has over 800 rooms for guests, including a column-free grand ballroom that can hold 1,300 guests. It also houses entertainment, dining, and retail hubs, as well as the famous Theatre at Solaire, which is the theater of choice for many performers and shows.
When it comes to gaming, Solaire brings the same kind of style and substance. It boasts an 18,500 square meter gaming area with 1,620 slot machines and 360 gaming tables. There are a variety of games available in Solaire’s play area, including table games such as Super Six, Lunar Poker, Sic Bo, Double Zero, and many more. It’s also home to several gaming clubs, including the Players Stadium and Solaire Sportsbook.
For those looking for a topnotch dining experience, its restaurant offerings aren’t anything to slouch at, either. Solaire is home to both five-star dining experiences and more casual fare, allowing for a range of culinary experiences. Try Finestra Italian Steakhouse for some delicious beef, or Yakumi for some of the freshest fish in Manila. Lucky Noodles is great for Chinese food lovers, and the Solaire Food Court boasts a variety of cuisines that’ll leave you spoiled for choice.
For more information about Solaire’s offerings, check out our page on Solaire Resort and Casino here.
City of Dreams Manila
City of Dreams Manila opened its doors with a soft opening on December 14, 2014, and officially on February 2, 2015. A sister resort to City of Dreams Macau, it houses six hotel towers with 938 rooms. Included among its hotel roster are Nobu Hotel, Nuwa (formerly known as Crown Towers), and a Hyatt Regency Hotel. The complex is also home to the Fortune Egg, a dome-shaped building that houses two of the best international night clubs in Manila, Chaos and Pangaea.
City of Dreams Manila is a gamer’s haven, with 289 gaming tables, 1,620 slot machines, and 176 electronic table games. Among the available games are Baccarat, Roulette, Lunar Poker, and Black Jack. Players can join the Melco Club, formerly the Dream Rewards program, to access a range of benefits. VIP gaming is also available through the Li Ying VIP Club.
Like Solaire, City of Dreams Manila boasts of a range of different cuisines and dining experiences. You can experience top class dining at places like Nobu or the Crystal Lounge, and for more casual fare you can head over to Red Kitchen or Prego. City of Dreams is also home to an incredibly fun VR experience at The Garage, one of the first in the country. There’s no better place to play, dine, and relax.
For more information about City of Dreams’s offerings, check out our page on City of Dreams Manila here.
The brainchild of Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada, Okada Manila is the third casino resort and hotel complex to rise in Entertainment City. The casino complex was formerly named Manila Bay Resorts, before rebranding as Okada Manila in June 2016. Okada’s doors officially opened on December 30, 2016, with the goal of establishing Metro Manila as one of the premiere destinations for gaming.
Okada Manila has almost a thousand guest rooms, with each wing of the hotel building connected via two sky bridges. The glass façade of the hotel is gold in color, representing the famous hues of the Manila Sunset. In terms of gaming experience, Okada boasts over 26,000 square meters of gaming space, with more than 3,000 electronic gaming machines and 500 game tables on the floor.
Okada Manila is also home to The Fountain, the largest multicolor dancing fountain in the world and crowning jewel of the complex. Measuring over 37,000 square meters, it’s the largest dancing fountain in the country and a little smaller than the Dubai Fountain at the Burj Khalifa Lake in the United Arab Emirates.
Dining experiences in Okada Manila are as delicious as they are varied, with choices like the Medley Buffet, Japanese Kappou Imamura, Goryeo Korean Barbecue, and many more. Okada also houses the Cove Manila, an indoor beach club during the day and night club during the evenings.
For more information about Okada’s offerings, [check out our page on Okada Manila here].
Westside City Resorts World
The fourth casino and hotel complex to rise in Entertainment City, Westside City Resorts World is expected to start initial operations in 2021. Once it’s completed, it will include Hotel Okura Manila, Westin Hotel, Kingsford Hotel, Genting Grand, and Crocksford Tower, totaling 1,500 guest rooms. The resort and casino complex is owned and operated by the Travellers International Hotels Group and its partner the Genting Group. Its real estate developer is the Megaworld Corporation of Andrew Tan.
NayonLanding Integrated Resort
The NayonLanding Integrated Resort was a Filipino-themed integrated resort that was initially planned to be part of the Entertainment City complex. However, its land lease agreement was annulled by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018. Currently, development is stalled as Landing International Development Limited is in search of a new plot of land to house the resort.
James Gonzales is a Filipino-American travel enthusiast and writer currently based in the Philippines. After living and working in New York for 10 years, James decided he wanted to see more of the world and leave the city behind. In the course of saving up for what would become an epic trip across Asia, he wrote about previous traveling experiences for various travel websites and publications based in the Lower East Side.
James focused on journeying through the Philippines in the hopes of understanding his roots, and began Daydreaming in Paradise to share his thoughts and experiences. He’s always looking for like-minded travelers to trade stories and swap tips with, and he hopes you’ll join him on his journey.