2020 was a rough year for everyone, and no industry was hit harder than the Philippines brick-and-mortar gambling market.
And while the Chinese coronavirus pandemic did spur congressional action on regulating online cockfighting (e-Sabong) and prompted the government to go forward with online gambling plans for several Entertainment City casino venues, the road to recovery is a daunting one.
However, quitting isn’t a thing in the Philippines, and several of the nation’s premier casino properties are going all-in on expanding the industry even as they fight to recover lost revenues from last year.
The New World Manila Bay Hotel and Casino is undergoing a transition to convert its property into a proper integrated resort (IR), for example, while the Westside City project is on pace to complete construction in the near-term future.
Additionally, the Waterfront Philippines has finally gone through the legal rigmarole to acquire the necessary permits and licenses to begin construction.
On top of that, while the Philippines has not granted any new casino licenses since 2017, that restriction will formally expire in 2022, though President Rodrigo Duterte has made no secret of his desire to move things along at a faster pace.
Of course, all these initiatives come with their own hurdles separate and distinct from the impact of COVID-19, with many industry pundits worried that the Philippines gambling market could cannibalize itself with such newfound market saturation.
Per COL Financial analyst Richard Laneda (via Asia Gaming Brief):
“It’s difficult to gauge the demand of the industry now that we are in a very difficult situation. We also do not know the timing of these new resorts and their respective sizes. Nevertheless, I believe in the short term this will increase competition in the area and will lead to some market share being taken from existing IRs. This will also lead to some margin erosion. But history shows that new IRs are able to grow the pie over the long term.”
Others are more bullish on the issue, but caution is the word of the day.
Gaming Concepts Group CEO Scott Feeney is optimistic, but he states that significant alterations to the gambling culture must come with any new emphasis on IR venues.
“We are strongly urging developers…to consider a much more rounded gaming floor offering with the focus on…large sportsbooks, vibrant stage shows, and a multitude of gaming floor [food and beverage] outlets. We recommend that gaming floors have a much larger overall entertainment and [food and beverage] footprint to cater for the locals to offset the expected lower numbers of Junket groups…and obviously the lower numbers of international visitors…”
In other words, for Metro Manila casinos to thrive going forward, they must take on the old Las Vegas resort casino model, giving local players and tourists more than just pure gambling options to entice their business.
This is sensible, but there are two more elements that are absolutely crucial for this to happen.
First and foremost, the Philippine government and PAGCOR must allow Filipino gamblers of all financial statuses to enter and play at these venues.
Currently, participation is limited only to those upper class residents that can prove a much higher than average annual income.
This threshold should be lowered substantially, perhaps replaced with more strict weekly/monthly/annual betting limits.
Secondly, the nation must allow these venues – all of them – to offer legal online gambling to their expanded local customer base.
Right now, only certain VIP members of certain IRs are able to play online casino games with domestic Philippines casino operators, and that has to change for the market to grow.
Granted, this too could cause a decrease in foot traffic to both existing and new venues in Entertainment City, but it’s a necessary development for the health of the industry in the long term, which is now more obvious than ever.
Of course, if you live in the Philippines and wish to play real-money online slots and other casino games, you already can, as there are several reputable offshore Philippine gambling sites and legal online sportsbooks out there.
All of these accept Filipino gamblers at just 18 years of age, and they have been serving residents of the islands for generations.
Further, there is no indication that access to these sites will be prohibited, even as the Philippines attempts to grow its Manila IR market.
Thus, if you wish to gamble online and want access to hundreds of legitimate, fair iGaming titles including online slots, video poker, roulette, craps, keno, bingo, baccarat, and more, you can.
Still, we encourage all Filipinos to support their country’s brick-and-mortar gambling market as well, as more choice is always a good thing, and there’s no reason to limit yourself to just a single option.
The future is bright for retail and online gambling in the Philippines, and the market is just getting started.
It’s time to bounce those problematic POGOs and bring the locals into the fold!
Source: Asia Gaming Brief