Three of the four integrated resort (IR) casinos in the Philippines capital of Manila have received online gaming licenses to service their domestic VIP high rollers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Chair Andrea Domingo confirmed to Asia Gaming Brief during an interview this week that newly created Philippine Inland Gaming Operator (PIGO) licenses have been issued.
Three of the recipients are Bloomberry Resorts, Melco Resorts, and Universal Entertainment. The Resorts World parent company Genting was not mentioned. Unlike Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, which targets gamblers internationally — and specifically in China — the PIGO licenses only allow the casinos to welcome qualified domestic high rollers located inside the Philippines.
Gross gaming revenue stemming from the PIGO business will be taxed at an effective rate of 30 percent. Licensees will send 25 percent of their internet win to PAGCOR, and the remaining five percent to the Philippines Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Limited Player Pool
Not all Filipinos will be permitted to hop on their computer or mobile device and access a PIGO site. In fact, most won’t.
Domingo explained that only known high rollers already enrolled in a casino’s land-based player database will be welcomed to gamble online.
They can only play if they’re considered or classified as VIP players and they are already in their player-tracking system,” Domingo said.
VIPs must first register to gamble online in person. Deposits and withdrawals must also be made at the actual licensed PIGO brick-and-mortar casino. The gaming regulatory boss says the in-person requirements are to make sure only qualified individuals can gamble online from within the Philippines.
“It will be good to collect revenues and stop illegal gambling because there’s a lot of illegal gambling,” Domingo added.
The Philippines has reported more than 444,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and nearly 9,000 deaths. After a summer spike in new cases, the Southeast Asian nation managed to get the virus under control and has since seen a decline in the virus spread.
However, casinos continue to operate under strict health safety measures. Every other slot machine has been disabled, and table games are limited to three players each. Guests are required to undergo temperature screenings before entry and must wear a face covering while inside.
Gaming Win Down
Domingo didn’t say what sort of gaming win should be expected from the PIGO platforms. But the casino resorts are certainly happy to have a way to cater to their most important domestic players. Online operations are expected to commence as early as this month.
VIPs account for 10-15 percent of annual casino revenues in the Philippines. Through three quarters of 2020, GGR is down 60 percent to $1.5 billion.
Domingo hinted that domestic online gaming could be expanded in the future for non-high rollers.
“Due to the pandemic, people are really going online. Everybody wants to shop online, consult their doctors online, get their test results online,” the PAGCOR chair said. She concluded that there might be a way to qualify more Filipinos in the future to play online in a safe manner.