Philippines Regulators Consider Allowing Manila Casinos to Operate Online Gaming

Posted on: October 27, 2020, 02:07h. 

Last updated on: October 27, 2020, 03:02h.

The Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) is reviewing a proposal to allow land-based casinos to operate online gaming websites.

Philippines PAGCOR online gambling
Andrea Domingo’s PAGCOR is mulling whether to authorize land-based casino resorts to conduct online gambling in the Philippines. (Image: Philippines Now)

PAGCOR is the state-run gaming regulator that also owns and operates its own casinos under the Casino Filipino brand. It confirmed to Asia Gaming Brief this week that it is considering allowing land-based casinos to move online. PAGCOR revealed the proposal was submitted by an unnamed consortium of licensed commercial casinos.

The group presumably involves the four integrated resort operators that do business in Manila’s Entertainment City: Resorts World, City of Dreams, Okada, and Solaire. All four IRs have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated closures of their gaming floors.

The multibillion-dollar casino resorts rely heavily on international high rollers.

Online Rescue

Land-based casinos, whether they be the commercial casinos in Manila or Clark Freeport Zone, or PAGCOR’s Casino Filipino properties, are not permitted to conduct casino games on the internet. With international travel remaining largely halted by the coronavirus, Manila IRs are struggling.

During the lockdowns this year, proposals from operators of land-based properties to accept bets online from known patrons only were received by PAGCOR. Concerned departments are currently conducting studies related to the proposals,” PAGCOR confirmed, without giving further details.

“Known patrons” likely refers to the VIPs that are catered to by the integrated resort casinos.

Manila casinos were permitted to begin reopening on August 24 but at only 30 percent capacity. The Philippines government ordered them to shut from April through mid-August.

The financial damage has been large. In the second quarter, Solaire reported a loss of $96.2 million, Resorts World $75.9 million, Okada $49.9 million, and City of Dreams $49.4 million. Collectively, the four casino resorts lost more than a quarter of a billion dollars ($271.4 million).

While Filipinos can access land-based casinos, assuming they bring documentation showing they have an annual gross income of at least PHP50,000 ($1,033), residents are barred from gambling online.

That isn’t to say, however, that online gambling isn’t big business in the Philippines. PAGCOR currently has 55 licensed Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, commonly referred to as POGOs. Online gaming networks cater to people internationally throughout Asia.

China Embargo

Manila’s casino resorts cater to China’s wealthiest gamblers, but the People’s Republic is cracking down on its mainland citizens traveling overseas to gamble. China President Xi Jinping unsuccessfully asked Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to revoke POGO licenses and shutter internet sites from facilitating online gambling for Chinese people.

Now, Xi’s administration is trying to block Chinese citizens from cross-border gambling.

An amendment expected to pass early next year in the Chinese National People’s Congress will levy prison terms of up to 10 years on people who market international casinos to Chinese people on the mainland.