If there’s one Philippine pastime that’s gained in popularity in recent years, it’s arguably gaming, which is expected to contribute an astonishing $3.57 billion to its economy in 2018 alone.
This figure represents rapid growth of 4.9 percent, with the increasing emergence of online casinos now identified as the primary catalyst for this trend.
An ever-expanding market
Source: Max Pixel
It was Andrea Domingo, chair and CEO of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) who was tasked with publicly announcing the year’s incredible outlook. Speaking at the regional gaming summit in Manila on Wednesday March 20th, she explained how internet gambling enterprises like Bitcasino would play a key role in this prophesied expansion.
Responsible for regulating the gaming sector, PAGCOR is inarguably the authority on the subject. Running its own small casinos alongside the enforcement role, PACGOR used the summit as an opportunity to not only consider the future, but also the mistakes of the past.
One topic that generated a large amount of discussion amongst those present was the fire at Manila Pavilion and Casino on March 18th, which killed five PAGCOR employees and caused untold damage and disruption. The incident occurred less than a year after the arson attack at Resorts World Manila in June 2017, which resulted in the deaths of 38 innocent victims.
Moving on to less emotionally upsetting topics, Ms Domingo shared that the Philippines had reported a whopping 170 billion pesos in gross gaming revenue in 2017, up 7.6 percent from the 158 billion pesos that the industry contributed to the economy in 2016.
The chair and CEO was confident this was a trend the country could expect to continue, sharing that growth would likely be driven by online casinos in particular. Ms Domingo stated:
“We are looking at doubling [Philippine offshore gaming operators] and electronic gaming.”
Promoting offshore gaming
Source: Max Pixel
Ms Domingo’s above comment directly complements the policy adopted by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, which has strongly promoted offshore gaming in the preceding period.
Aiming to raise ever more revenue while at the same time managing the proliferation of casinos in the predominantly Catholic country, this has created an environment in which only gamblers from abroad are able to bet in its offshore gaming operators (POGOs).
So, how many of these POGOs exist? As of now, there are 53 such enterprises, most of them owned and managed by Chinese operators. Between them, these raised 3.9 billion pesos in government fees in 2017, a figure expected to double in 2018.
The Philippines has been open about its ambition to become a major Asian gaming destination on the back of this. Seeking to accommodate casino investments whilst at the same time safeguarding against domestic addiction, they want to uphold local morals without stymying their economy – and POGOs offer them the perfect solution.
In line with this objective, the country ruled that PAGCOR must stop issuing new licenses for integrated resorts and casinos on their home turf in January 2018, focusing their efforts on POGOs instead.
This move expanded an earlier moratorium applied to Metro Manila, an area where major names including the Philippine’s Bloomberry Resorts, Macau’s Melco Crown Entertainment, Malaysia’s Genting, and Japan’s Universal Entertainment all have integrated resorts valued at more than $1 billion each.
Prior to this directive, four applications for additional resort licenses had already been filed. The regulator is still expected to process these, with the possibility that they may join the 18 entities which already possess such certification.
Looking to the future
President Duterte’s dictate will undoubtedly have an impact on the Philippine gaming industry, yet plans that were already in place will still go ahead, with PAGCOR evidencing this through the issue of a provisional licence to Galaxy Entertainment Group on Wednesday 21st. This will allow the Macau-based company to build a $500 million integrated resort and casino in one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, the island of Boracay.
Although Galaxy has not yet released an official opening date for its luxurious casino, it is expected to be imminent, and to go ahead without a hitch.
A country modernizing itself at a rapid rate, the Philippines looks set to soon take its place amongst the Asian gaming elite. Cautious not to let the vices it seeks to exploit take hold in its own country, it’s nonetheless cleverly capitalizing on one of the fastest growing industries in existence. Whether its estimated revenue proves overambitious or not, the Philippine economy certainly appears to be on the up.