Manila Casinos to Remain Under COVID-19 Alert Level 3, as Cases Spiral Out of Control

Posted on: January 17, 2022, 08:58h. 

Last updated on: January 17, 2022, 10:17h.

Manila will remain under Alert Level 3 in the Philippines through at least the end of January.

Philippines Manila casinos COVID-19 pandemic
A Filipino woman receives the COVID-19 vaccination in November of 2021. The Philippines is scrambling to contain the highly contagious omicron variant, but is allowing Manila casinos to continue operating amid the latest surge. (Image: Reuters)

The Philippines Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is maintaining its COVID-19 alert status on the capital metro for the next two weeks. Manila has been under Alert Level 3 since January 5.

A variety of leisure and entertainment activities are prohibited under the pandemic response stage, including contact sports, horse racing and cockfighting, karaoke, bars, nightclubs, music venues, movie theaters, and indoor social gatherings. In-person education is also on hold.

Casino gambling was originally banned under Alert Level 3. But the four integrated resorts in Manila managed to convince government officials to allow gaming to continue. The allowance issued to City of Dreams, Okada, Solaire, and Resorts World is conditioned on the resorts limiting occupancy to 75% of their property’s fire code. Additionally, all must adhere to strict social distancing measures and robust entrance protocols for guests and employees.

The gaming exemption comes despite COVID-19 spreading at record rates. Infections in the Philippines have doubled every week since the end of 2021. Active cases hit a record 280,813 over the weekend.

Vax Required

A key condition of being allowed to continue conducting gambling during the Level 3 alert status is that all patrons and workers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The IATF says the casinos must “diligently check” the vaccination status of all persons trying to gain access to the casino resort.

According to the most recent data, about 50 percent of the Filipino population is fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates among the gaming industry are considerably higher. Melco Resorts, for example, reports that 99.6 percent of its City of Dreams Manila staff members are fully inoculated against the coronavirus.

Along with the casino being open in limited capacity, other areas of the Manila resorts are operating. Indoor dining is limited to 40 percent capacity and 60 percent outdoors, and gyms can accommodate 40 percent of their typical capacity. Hotels are also open to leisure visitors.

The Manila casinos are encouraging Filipinos to take staycations during this most unusual time. Deals are aplenty, too. Guestrooms at the five-star luxurious integrated resorts can be booked for as little as $100 a night.

Pandemic Losses

The four Manila integrated resorts continue to rack up operating losses compared with pre-pandemic 2019.

Through three quarters in 2019, the four casinos reported gross gaming revenue (GGR) of PHP133.66 billion (US$2.61 billion). Through three quarters of 2021 — the most recently reported casino income period — total GGR is PHP62 billion (US$1.21 billion).

Manila’s gaming industry has been able to generate GGR throughout the pandemic, even when their brick-and-mortar properties were ordered closed by the republic. That’s due to the government allowing the casinos to operate iGaming websites for their known VIP foreign clientele.