State-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) will rely on the strength of the online gambling industry as it disposes off its casino assets before the year-end.
Jose S. Tria Jr., special assistant to Pagcor’s chairman and chief executive, expressed optimism that online gambling operators catering to offshore players are poised to become major catalysts for growth in the country’s gaming industry despite the implementation of stringent policies.
“We are estimating that Pagcor’s revenues from online and land based will balance in the future, particularly now that the Philippine government has put in place its regulations on online gambling,” the official said.
In February, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 13, which is intended to beef up the government’s fight against illegal gambling while clarifying the extent of authority for the regulation and licensing of online gambling operations.
The Duterte administration also transferred regulatory supervision of online gaming companies from the Cagayan Economic Authority Zone (CEZA) to PAGCOR last September.
Despite being a revenue generating business for the state regulator, Tria maintains that PAGCOR keeps a close eye on all licensed Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) so that it will not be accessible to locals.
PAGCOR, according to Tria, also carefully scrutinizes firms applying for POGO licenses, saying that there are 44 applications that are still being reviewed by the state regulator.
“Pagcor has rejected several POGO applications, particularly those with criminal records,” Tria said. “Not everyone who applied for a license would be granted if he will not qualify based on the new criteria of Pagcor.”
While land-based casinos still dwarf the Internet-based operators, Tria said that growth potential for online gaming is huge, noting many POGOs saw their operations increase more than double in recent years.
Philippines far from being Macau
While the country has made headways in improving the business climate, Union Gaming Group managing director Grant Govertsen said the Philippines is still far from beating Macau.
He said infrastructure in the Southeast Asian island nation remains a hindrance to the Philippines becoming a gambling powerhouse.
Goversten told BusinessWorld that improved infrastructure would also attract more foreign players to the local gaming industry, which would further bolster gross gaming revenue growth in the country.
“I don’t think they’ll ever going get to where Macau is. I think there is a need for significant infrastructure improvement. It’s elevating the tourism experience in general,” he said.