The Philippines is finally beginning to recover from COVID-19. As it lifts more health restrictions, the country’s gaming regulator is confident that a dramatic shift in casino and gaming revenue is coming quickly.
The Philippines has begun the task of recreating stability in its economy following its lengthy battle with COVID-19. It is beginning to welcome back international travelers as more businesses shed the restrictions that kept them from operating normally. This is going to provide welcome relief to all businesses, especially casinos and other gaming facilities.
PAGCOR (Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation), the country’s gaming regulator/casino operator, is optimistic about what comes next. Its boss, chairwoman and CEO Andrea Domingo, expects gaming revenue in the Philippines to double this year. That’s good news for the gaming operators, as well as the country.
Philippine Gaming Revenue on the Rise
Domingo spoke in a media forum yesterday, where she laid out the short-term future of PAGCOR gaming. She expects revenue to reach PHP25 billion to PHP30 billion (US$478 million to US$574 million) within the next two months. Year-to-date gross gaming revenue (GGR) through April 25 was PHP18 million (US$345,000)
Building on this, she predicts GGR of around PHP60 billion to PHP65 billion (US$1.15 billion to US$1.24 billion) by the end of the year. This is “almost twice as much as last year.”
Casinos in the Philippines were operating at 50% capacity only until last month. Despite prolonged issues with shutdowns, social distancing and capacity limitations, gaming revenue began to rise last year.
A couple of weeks ago, PAGCOR gave the government $120 million, its share of net earnings for 2021. The entity is required by law to give half its revenue to the state.
Non-PAGCOR casinos are doing better, as well. They reported GGR of $638.9 million for the fourth quarter of last year, marking a year-on-year increase of 8.8%. That was also a quarterly increase of 46.5%.
COVID-19 Shrunk Philippine Gaming Market
COVID-19 took its toll on the Philippine economy and it didn’t spare the gaming industry. The Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) segment saw a considerable reduction in its numbers. During the pandemic, according to PAGCOR, 22 POGOs lost their licenses.
For over two months last year, gaming ceased in the Philippines. This made it difficult for some companies to stay afloat. Where once, in 2019, there were 63 POGOs, there are now only 26. However, not all of the closures were due to attrition.
In some cases, a few POGOs ended their run because they weren’t playing by the rules. The Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) highlighted in an updated list last week that six of the companies never registered with the entity. This was a requirement established as the POGO space moved from its Wild West state to become a controlled market years ago.
As a result of the exit, POGO GGR fell considerably. In 2020, the market was responsible for revenue of PHP5.28 billion (US$101 million). Last year, that fell to PHP3.47 billion (US$67 million). PAGCOR expects a further drop to as low as PHP1.67 billion (US$32 million) this year.
PAGCOR Needs to Address Sabong Market
During yesterday’s media gathering, the subject of sabong and e-sabong came up. The cockfighting market is plagued with issues and lawmakers want action. Senator Panfilo Lacson wants PAGCOR to be more proactive in regulating the gambling aspect of the activity.
However, there should be an independent regulator for e-sabong, according to Domingo. This would allow PAGCOR to focus on casinos and not lose momentum.
Lacson isn’t convinced that this is the best solution, asserting that adding a new regulator to the gaming space is counterproductive. It doesn’t meet the country’s goal of streamlining its operations.
Sabong and its betting component aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. President Rodrigo Duterte already asserted his support for the activity due to the revenue it brings. However, mothers selling their babies to pay off their e-sabong debt may change his mind.
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