China-Centric Online Casinos Exit Philippines Due to Virus Curbs

About half of the more than 60 online casinos in the Philippines have permanently shut due to coronavirus restrictions, affecting as many as 30,000 foreign workers, the nation’s gaming agency chief said.

The Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp. expects its gaming revenue to drop to as low as 16 billion pesos ($330 million) this year from about 30 billion pesos in 2020 as strict movement curbs in the capital region remain, Chairman Andrea Domingo said in a virtual briefing.

Revenue from online casinos, which cater mostly to Chinese clients, will likely be less than half the usual earnings of 8 billion to 9 billion pesos, Domingo said. Some online casinos known as Philippine offshore gaming operators or POGOs partially reopened in December.

“Manpower is really a problem. Chinese nationals can’t go to the Philippines, so no one can take bets,” Domingo said. Workers who left for Chinese New Year in 2020 were not able to return because of the lockdown, and there aren’t enough locals to do the job, she said.

Some operators will likely transfer to Vietnam, Myanmar and Malaysia, while bigger online casinos may return to the Philippines once travel restrictions ease and there’s clarity on proposals to tax the industry, Domingo said.

The property sector will also take a hit from the shutdowns, as online casino workers leave empty offices and residential units, she said.

To recoup losses, the gaming agency proposed to the virus task force that land-based casinos be allowed to operate at half capacity under the second-strictest quarantine level, which is in force in the capital.

“We’re trying to keep afloat,” Domingo said. “We have to open up a little bit so we don’t lose the market altogether.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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