The Chair and CEO of Philippines gaming regulator PAGCOR, Andrea Domingo, says she remains hopeful Manila’s land-based casinos can resume operations this month, or “at the very latest in July,” amid concerns over shrinking tax revenues and growing job losses in the industry.
Domingo provided a keynote speech to launch the ICE Asia Digital and SiGMA Asia Focus online conferences on Monday and used the opportunity to outline PAGCOR’s top priorities as it looks to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic that saw the nation placed under widespread community quarantine on 15 March.
While some online POGO operators have since restarted operations, land-based casinos remain closed almost three months later with no clear indication as to exactly when they will be given the all clear to resume. Nevertheless PAGCOR, which revealed to Inside Asian Gaming last week it had already submitted a request to the Inter-Agency Task Force for COVID-19 for casinos to reopen, doesn’t want to wait much longer.
Noting that the regulator had boosted its annual income from Php45 billion (US$902 million) in 2015 to over Php80 billion (US$1.6 billion) last year, Domingo said, “This is how much PAGCOR contributes to the national economy and we would have been doing very well this year, but then COVID came and somehow we have to take three steps back.
“But we’re going to get on with it in June or at the very latest in July.”
Domingo said PAGCOR’s first priority right now was to “stay healthy and to stay safe during COVID-19,” but added, “The second most important thing is that we have to be able to maintain the employment of the 132,000 direct hires of the gaming industry. And third we have to maximize revenue collection because our government, like all governments, needs the money not only to fight COVID but to buy a vaccine, to do massive testing, support hospitals and also to jumpstart the economy after the COVID crisis is over.”
Entertainment City resort Okada Manila became the first property in Manila to announce significant layoffs last month when it revealed it was letting 1,000 staff go due to financial losses from COVID-19.