Philippines Reopening Borders, Casinos Ready to Welcome Back Foreign High Rollers

Posted on: February 7, 2022, 07:48h. 

Last updated on: February 7, 2022, 11:59h.

The Philippines will begin allowing foreign travelers entry into the Southeast Asia nation beginning Thursday, Feb. 10. For the integrated resort casinos in Manila, which rely heavily on VIP play, the border reopening is a major development.

Philippines casinos Manila COVID-19
A Philippines Airlines aircraft taxis at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. The Philippines is reopening its borders to foreigners effective February 10, 2022. (Image: Reuters)

After being closed for roughly a year to foreigners, Philippines officials say the country is being reopened to the republic’s primary tourism markets. That includes the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, South Korea, Germany, and Canada. China remains on hold.

Visitors arriving in the Philippines from the permitted countries can enter without a visa so long as they present a negative COVID-19 test conducted within the 48 hours prior to departure. Inbound travelers must additionally be fully vaccinated and provide proof of inoculation with valid certifications from their home countries. Foreigners arriving in the Philippines must also purchase at least $35,000 worth of travel insurance.

While the Philippines is lifting mandatory quarantines for international guests, the country is asking such travelers to self-monitor for symptoms for seven days after arrival. They also must immediately report any COVID-19 indicators to local authorities.

More than 8.3 million foreigners traveled to the Philippines in pre-pandemic 2019. Only 1.4 million international guests were counted last year.

US Advises Against Travel

PAGCOR — the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation — reported last Friday that its full-year 2021 net income plummeted 87 percent year-over-year to PHP203.57 million (US$3.99 million).

PAGCOR is both a gaming regulator and operator. Along with governing commercial gaming operations, including brick-and-mortar casinos and iGaming, the agency runs its own casinos under the Casino Filipino brand.

The Philippines allowing foreigners to return should finally help boost business at the four integrated resorts in Manila. The government continues to limit the indoor occupancy of City of Dreams, Okada, Solaire, and Resorts World — though the mandate is rather moot, as there simply hasn’t been enough demand for the casinos to come anywhere near their government-imposed capacity restrictions.

Needed demand might not be fulfilled by US travelers anytime soon. The US Department of State says that, despite the Philippines lifting its ban on foreign travel, US residents should avoid the Southeast Asia country.

Do not travel to the Philippines,” the State Department bluntly advises. Along with COVID-19, the US foreign policy agency cites “crime, terrorism, civil unrest, and kidnapping” as reasons to avoid the Philippines.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adds that the Philippines remains under a Level 4 Travel Health Notice because of high levels of COVID-19 transmission.

Bingo Operator Licensed

In related gaming news, the Philippines last week issued its first bingo license. The recipient is Leisure & Resorts World Corp. (LRWC), which runs more than 200 gaming arcades across the country.

PAGCOR issued the Philippines’ inaugural retail bingo license to Leisure & Resorts World. The permit allows LRWC to conduct in-person bingo games, as well as online bingo under its new BingoPlus marque.

LRWC is amid an ongoing effort to expand its presence in the Philippines’ gambling sector. Leisure & Resorts World is seeking to co-develop a casino resort on Boracay Island with Macau casino giant Galaxy Entertainment.

President Rodrigo Duterte personally halted the Boracay casino project in 2018. However, the president last year hinted at allowing the gaming resort undertaking to resume in an effort to recoup economic losses spurred by the pandemic.