The Philippines has not been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus, at least by many international standards.
To date, the nation of 106 million people has only 63,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and just under 1700 deaths.
While testing remains sparse and the likely number of cases is much higher, the confirmed death totals represent just .0016 percent of the population.
By all metrics, this is less of a threat than the annual flu.
Still, the Philippine government and the Duterte administration are taking no chances, especially in Metro Manila, where local businesses – including brick-and-mortar casinos and sports betting outlets – remain shuttered.
These lockdowns are now entering their fifth month in the island nation, having just been extended for at least another two weeks. It is likely that the quarantine will be extended further, as well, and there is no telling when local casinos and gambling venues – including legal sabong pits – will open back up.
Of course, POGOs in the nation remain operational, even as several of these have closed up shop due to the limited workforce they’re able to employ during the Wuhan coronavirus restrictions.
Without being able to meet the demand of mainland Chinese gamblers, many POGOs are struggling where online gambling should be surging.
For Filipinos, of course, POGOs are off-limits, leaving offshore gambling sites like BetOnline and Intertops as the only legal casino and sportsbook destinations for hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of avid bettors in the country.
These sites haven’t seen any slowdown in operations due to COVID-19, and by all accounts, their membership is actually rising sharply.
With nowhere to gamble and limited opportunities to venture out into the community, homebound Philippines residents are taking their chances with online games of chance now more than ever.
Economically, this is not an ideal situation for the Philippines.
The island nation relies on PAGCOR-licensed brick-and-mortar casinos and betting shops to contribute roughly PHP1.5 billion (US$30.4 million) per quarter to state coffers. However, in the first three months of 2020, revenues are down by about 50 percent, and the lack of gambling operations have led to massive decreases in taxable gaming and license fees for the government.
While Filipino gamblers are able to legally use non-POGO offshore gambling sites, these sites do not pay taxes or fees to the Philippine government.
In the best of times, such losses are significant. In the worst of times – as when a pandemic is ravaging the nation – these losses can be catastrophic.
Congress could address the issue of online gambling for its residents going forward, allowing them to wager with POGO-like venues that are licensed and regulated by the state, with all that money staying in the local economy.
However, despite being all in on POGOs, the Duterte administration is historically adverse to allowing online gambling for the nation’s own citizenry.
This may change, especially now that there is widespread support within the legislature to legalize and regulate e-sabong.
Still, the jury remains out on whether or not the nation will allow full online access to cockfighting betting or if it will simply authorize remote OTB stations – i.e. off-track betting kiosks – for access to the pastime.
Nevertheless, the writing is on the wall in support of online gambling at a domestic level in the Philippines, and the hardships being levied on the nation due to the global pandemic could be all the government needs to see in order to properly modernize its gambling industry.
Source: Inside Asian Gaming