Don’t look now but Filipinos might get shut out of local casinos if the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) decides to ban Filipinos from entering various casinos located in Metro Manila and several other provinces.
Pagcor chief Cristino Naguiat Jr. made the pronouncement a few weeks ago during a budget hearing conducted by Congress, acknowledging a proposal brought to the table by Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice with the promise that the government agency will look into and study the merits and demerits of banning local citizens, or at least the poor among them, from entering its casinos.
Such a move to ban local citizens in casinos isn’t exactly a ground-breaking idea in the region. Singapore already has strict laws (the Casino Control Act) to try to limit locals from entering its casinos, recently implementing its Casino Visit Limit scheme that includes charging a S$100 entry levy on local residents to play in its casinos. So Pagcor’s adoption of a similar plan isn’t new by any means and the agency believes that such a move wouldn’t have a great effect on hampering its ambitious revenue goals in the years to come.
According to Naguiat, “60 to 70 percent” of its revenue is generated from “foreign high rollers” with the remaining 30 percent accounted for by Filipino patrons. We don’t know how good the Pagcor chief is at math, but 30 percent seems like a pretty big number to omit from your bottom line altogether. But there seems to be strong backing for such an implementation to get the green light, specifically from Rep. Erice, who claims that the casinos, with the right marketing and strong junket operators, could still earn its target revenues from foreign VIPs and mass-market gamblers.
Last year, Pagcor disclosed its revenue earnings totaled Php40.883 billion. This year, that number is expected to hit Php42.901 billion. Those two figures won’t provide any helpful information on how the casino industry in the country will fare without local patronage because last year’s numbers, and a big chunk of 2013’s figures, have been released with, shall we say, “local participation”.
Should Pagcor go ahead and ban locals from entering casinos, next year’s figures – estimated at Php45.472 billion – will be the telling number on how much of an impact local citizens have in driving up the revenue numbers. If it can sit close to the target number throughout the year, then it might prove Rep. Erice’s point. But should it fall below the target expectations, then banning locals from entering casinos might prove to be a premature, if not ill-advised, move that could keep Pagcor from achieving its target revenue.