Amid its crackdown on gambling operations that cater to the economically vulnerable portion of the country, the Philippines is now punting on international-facing operators as a new revenue source.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made headlines when he vowed to stop online gambling in the country—a surprise announcement that left the industry and even state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) unsure on what “online” gambling activities the president was out to close.
The government’s gambling crackdown has already caused one firm to shut down, and to offset the losses it sustained, PAGCOR is opening its doors to casino and betting operators that target non-locals.
PAGCOR CEO Andrea Domingo revealed on Tuesday that the regulator is “readying application forms,” for the licenses that “would be issued for six months initially.”
“We don’t know yet how saleable it is,” Domingo said, according to Reuters. “There might be no takers, or there could be many applicants.”
The licenses will be offered on first-come-first-serve basis, and PAGCOR said it plans to charge “high fees.”
If the plan pushes through, PAGCOR expects the new licenses to help offset the loss in annual revenues following Duterte’s decision not to renew the license of gaming technology provider PhilWeb. The publicly-listed gaming technology provider, which operates 286 e-Games outlets in the country, has remitted US$297.9 million to the state regulator and paid over US$5.96 million in corporate income tax and other taxes.
The Philippines is home to most Asian-facing international online gambling operators, who hold licenses issued by the First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corp under the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA). By law, CEZA licensees are prohibited from accepting bets from Philippine customers, but online gambling sites licensed in other jurisdictions aren’t subject to such restrictions. Without naming names, the past couple weeks has seen a few non-CEZA sites abruptly stop accepting action from Philippine gamblers, who were told the change was “due to the laws in your country.” Hopefully, PAGCOR’s new licensing plan will bring the much needed stability that the Philippine gambling industry needs at the moment.