Last week, it was announced that Metro Manila was to undergo a month-long quarantine to help fend off the impact of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.
Naturally, that also meant closing casinos in the National Capital Region (NCR), which is comprised of 16 major cities.
Now, however, the brick-and-mortar gaming ban has been extended to the entire island of Luzon and beyond, with PAGCOR casinos and other retail gambling outlets currently closed across all of the Philippines.
In a statement to GGRAsia, PAGCOR – the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation – explained in clear terms exactly what’s going on:
“All gaming establishments in the Philippines, both PAGCOR-operated and -licensed, have been ordered to suspend operations with instructions to employees to stay home in compliance with government-mandated community quarantine protocols.”
However, there are a few exceptions, as PAGCOR is allowing “necessary skeletal” casino staff to remain on-site, though all others must “work from home according to alternative work arrangements.”
Of course, this was not an unforeseen development, as we outlined in our initial Manila quarantine report.
Interestingly, despite the retail gambling closures and major financial losses as a result, the casinos themselves have pivoted to contribute funding to the COVID-19 crisis.
CNN Philippines reports that a number of affected casinos (and other hospitality venues, like shuttered hotels) are going out of pocket to provide for the needs of their communities. The City of Dreams, Okada, and Resorts World casino venues have already committed to donating over PHP 100 million (US 1.9 million) in relief aid.
These donations come in the form of food packs, medical equipment and supplies, testing machines, coronavirus test kits, and other hospital necessities.
Interestingly, POGOs – oft lamented for being chronic tax dodgers – are stepping up as well. While these Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators are exempt from the full national casino ban, they’re doing their part to give back.
Already, according to PAGCOR chairwoman Andrea Domingo, POGOs have donated PHP 150 million (US 2.9 million) to coronavirus relief efforts, with more to come.
For its part, PAGCOR itself has earmarked PHP 2.5 billion (US 48.8 million) for the Philippine Department of Health to help combat the spread and impact of the Chinese coronavirus.
If you’d like to do your part, the current strategy is a simple if daunting one: Stay at home.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s quarantine order does allow travel outside the home for food, medicine, and other necessary supplies, but social gatherings and other non-critical interactions among the public are banned until the tentative April 12 end of the Manila lock-down (albeit this will likely be extended).
Of course, staying at home has its own challenges.
Many are lucky enough to be able to work from home, but many others don’t have that opportunity. And needless to say, isolation and loneliness – and the anxiety and depression that comes with both – are not ideal. These can weaken one’s immune system and make staving off coronavirus – or any other ailment – that much harder.
For Filipino gamblers who cannot access POGOs due to Philippine gambling laws and now have no way to enjoy their daily hobby, there is reason to be optimistic: As long as you have a modern mobile or computer device and an Internet connection, you can still participate in all the gaming action you love.
Legal online casinos serve millions of Philippine residents aged 18 and up, and these are all still operational. While sports betting has been temporarily decimated by COVID-19 (i.e. no NBA betting or PBA betting), there are still dozens of casino games, hundreds of slots, and even tournament poker and horse racing to enjoy at all the best gambling sites.
Just remember: Stay home, stay safe, and stay responsible.
Gambling is absolutely a wonderful way to pass the time if you can afford it, but you must prioritize the health and safety of your family. If you have limited income or are on a tight budget right now, please gamble sparingly. Food and medicine always come first.
Otherwise, feel free to go all in on online gambling.
Because we’re all in this together.