With no real end in sight to the coronavirus lockdowns in Metro Manila, many gamblers are wondering exactly when the area’s many casino and gambling venues will reopen to the public.
While the larger operations in the region are still going to be shuttered for the foreseeable future (despite a planned June 30 end to the quarantine), at least four cities with brick-and-mortar Philippine casinos have been allowed by the government to resume operations.
In an email to GGRAsia, PAGCOR – the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation – has confirmed that the following cities’ gambling venues are now open for business and have “resumed…50 percent of operations”:
- Bacolor City – Negros Island
- Iloilo City – Panay
- General Santos City – Mindanao Island
- Ilocos Norte – Luzon
The specific venues that are up and running were not clarified by PAGCOR.
Meanwhile, PAGCOR has confirmed that larger casinos in Manila are currently undergoing testing and analysis in preparation for when their businesses are allowed to legally resume.
Per PAGCOR, this testing protocol is designed to:
“ascertain and address the technical issues expected after three months of closure; to strengthen internal processes, systems and procedures; and to ensure strict compliance with physical distancing as well as stringent health and safety protocols.”
In other news, despite the struggling state of retail casinos in the islands thanks to the Wuhan coronavirus, a major resort casino has resumed construction in Quezon City.
According to Bloomberry Resorts Corporation chairman Enrique K. Razon, Jr., the planned Solaire North venue – Bloomberry’s second integrated casino and resort – is now back in the building phase.
“We are continuing with the construction of Solaire North in Quezon City which, given the delay due to the lockdown, should be completed by the end of 2022 or early 2023. … Construction has partially restarted and the period of lockdown can be reasonably added to the completion date. We strongly believe that the timing of Solaire North could well coincide with a full economic recovery.”
This is obviously great news for the struggling gambling industry in the Philippines. However, there is no indication whether the nation’s government is going to expand gambling to domestic online operators anytime soon.
Indeed, during the coronavirus lockdowns, many Philippine gamers have been signing up at legal online casinos operating offshore (as native Filipinos are precluded by law from joining POGOs, which almost exclusively target mainland Chinese customers).
These offshore sites have been good solutions for gamblers while land-based casinos have been closed for three months and counting, and their popularity has spiked by several hundred percent as a result of nonexistent local options.
Perhaps when COVID-19 passes and things return to normal, the Duterte Administration and the national Congress will blaze a path forward on bringing online slots, blackjack, craps, and other traditional casino favorites to the citizenry.
Though the government has approved offshore gambling sites for legal use by Filipino players, it seems that the realities of losing all that potentially taxable revenue is stinging more than ever as the country faces a massive – and massively expensive – rebuild.
Nevertheless, any progress on that front will likely take a long time, and until you can gamble online with local operators, we recommend using a reputable offshore site like Intertops or BetOnline for all your casino gaming and sports betting needs.
After all, they have everything but sabong!
Of course, legal online e-sabong could become a reality sooner than later, as the government is rather (chicken)hawkish on the idea.