PAGCOR Losses Drive Support For Domestic Philippine Online Casinos

Philippines retail casinos have taken a real beating in 2020.

Seriously, it’s like someone put them in a ring with Manny Pacquiao and expected them to go all 12 rounds.

That’s not a surprise in and of itself, though, as the coronavirus pandemic has caused all retail gambling venues in the islands to shut down for the better part of a year now.

However, updated revenue statements from PAGCOR – after an accounting error led to the double-reporting of many key metrics – make a dire situation appear even more troubling for the Philippines gambling industry.

According to industry news site CalvinAyre, the GGR (or gross gaming revenue) collected by PAGCOR was just PHP2.4 billion for Q2, which equates to roughly US$50 million.

This represents a massive 95.4% decline year-over-year.

Worse, this is pre-tax, which means that the state – in the midst of an economy-crippling pandemic – has even less money than anticipated to help with recovery and new infrastructural needs going forward.

Before COVID-19, Philippine gambling revenue was a steady and consistent source of much-needed income for the state. Now, that income has practically vanished, and it may take several years for it to reach the levels it was enjoying as recently as 2019.

While the Philippines is considered to be the major up-and-coming player in the Southeast Asian destination gambling market, the timeline for that ascension is clearly lengthened, and there’s only one way to get back on track in a hurry:

Legal online gambling.

Right now, legal Philippine online gambling is only available to PH residents via offshore gambling sites like BetOnline, Intertops, and other operators serving the region.

Remember, POGOs in the Philippines are technically online casinos, but access is restricted to those sites. Only players residing in select other countries – like China – can use POGOs. Filipino residents are barred from signing up and playing.

Of course, like everything else gambling-related in the islands, POGO operations – and POGO tax revenues – are down significantly in 2020.

However, there is a silver lining to the realities imparted by COVID-19 on the Philippine casino market, and that’s that many casino operators (and even some PH legislators) are now calling for the government to embrace legal online casinos at the domestic level for Filipino gamblers.

According to Sebastian Salat, CEO of Zitro Gaming, a major slots operator with gambling contracts in the Philippines:

“Experience taught us that whenever an obstacle arises, an opportunity usually goes along with it. As the effects of COVID are being felt in land-based venues, we understand PAGCOR may be considering regulated online and mobile gaming in the Philippines. Zitro has outstanding offerings in this area and we are already preparing the groundwork with local partners.”

Mae Javaluyas, COO of major Asian gambling consultancy firm Bromhead Holdings, is equally optimistic that the region is primed for growth:

“We hope that the seemingly well-founded rumors that PAGCOR will approve online [casino gaming] are correct. Our recently introduced NBA basketball game from HIGHLIGHT is perfect for [a] mobile application.”

As you can see, operators that do business in the region in a brick-and-mortar capacity are bullish on the potential for domestic Philippine online gambling.

But it might not be completely smooth sailing.

President Rodrigo Duterte has publicly stated that his administration will not allow online gambling for PH residents. Nevertheless, Duterte is slated to leave office in 2022, at which time the local political environment may be more apt to expand gambling’s footprint in the nation.

On the other hand, Duterte could also take a look at the country’s financial projections and decide that due to the coronavirus, his stance on the issue may need to be modified.

In that case, domestic online gambling and Internet-based Philippines sports betting could make an appearance sooner rather than later.

Until then, of course, it remains legal and safe for Filipino gamblers and punters to use offshore betting sites operating legally within the industry for all their gambling needs.

And with the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup finally restarting on October 11, sports bettors in particular can take solace in the fact that they can take their shots online – and all the way to the bank!