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Korean investor to build casino-hotel in Cagayan de Oro

July 18, 2008 6:00am

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Korean hotel and leisure firm I.F. Koresco Corp. will put up a $20-million casino-hotel in this city within the year that will generate at least 200 jobs.

The company has also started building its second 330-square meter condominium complex for Korean retirees and has been operating this city’s Hotel Koresco, which caters largely to Korean visitors.

I.F. Koresco Corp. Chairman Suk Koo Ko said they were awaiting the permit from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

He added that as soon as they receive the permit, they would build the 100-room casino-hotel. Mr. Suk said they would build the casino-hotel at the back of Hotel Koresco. It will have 70 deluxe rooms and 30 suite rooms.

The plan of the Korean firm, however, courts protest actions from community leaders. Religious and socio-civic groups have opposed gambling joints and a government plan to open a casino at the elite hotel Pryce Plaza more than a decade ago. The city council has enacted an ordinance prohibiting casino operations here.

"We need to gather again [against the Korean casino-hotel]... We just need to be consistent with the stand of the church," said Catholic priest Jose A. Cabantan, director of this city’s archdiocese. "Gambling can lead to vices. It becomes addictive not only to the rich but also to the poor," Mr. Cabantan said.

But Mr. Suk said the casino-hotel is exclusive to in-house guests, particularly foreign players. "We want to clarify that residents in this city cannot play at the casino — only our foreign guests. We don’t want the locals to spend their money here," he added.

He said that they have clarified their policy when they presented their plans to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during her visit here last year. In Mindanao, there is only one government-owned and controlled casino, which is in Davao City.

Mr. Suk said only about 1,200 Koreans check in at the hotel yearly, but they expect more to come with the construction of the Laguindingan international airport. He said that the second condominium complex, which will be sold to Korean retirees, has started construction with a projected cost of $1.5 million. The first condominium that they built for $700,000 is now sold out.

"We have many investment plans here," said Mr. Suk, who plans to retire here. The company expects 20,000 Korean visitors when the new casino-hotel opens next year. "We would like to add at least 1% growth to the city’s economy." — Geefe P. Alba, BusinessWorld