Operators and investors who are considering betting on the Philippines have a lot to consider, so it helps to have a local expert on your side. Marie Antonette Quiogue, head of the gaming department at Romulo Law, is the perfect person for that job, and she joined CalvinAyre.com’s Stephanie Tower at the recent ASEAN Gaming Summit 2019 to discuss the region.
The gambling industry in the Philippines has expanded greatly in recent years, and it’s had a big effect on how the space looks now. “So before gaming was more localized, and I think based on our panel, more regional based,” Quiogue explained. “But now, you have international companies coming in, really investing in the Philippines, in infrastructure, and I think that is what’s changing the gaming landscape in terms of regulatory infrastructure and how people are looking at gaming in general.”
Part of the reason the country has seen so much investment is because it takes a very different angle with incoming operators, trying to be the adult in the room, so to speak. “I think the Philippines, out of all the Asian countries, it allows a regulatory environment for operators to come in,” she said. “You know, I was just speaking with the PAGCOR president last night… and I think what our regulators have tried to do is find a balance, that we have the right regulations to attract the listed companies, the big companies, to make them feel that their investment would be safe. But not as strict as maybe for instance Singapore, such that it makes it impossible for people and for investors to do business in the Philippines.”
The investment of recent years has mostly been in the Entertainment City complex of Metro Manila, but it’s starting to fan out a bit more. “The Entertainment City, I think, is setting the standards, but there are various casinos that are going to be set up in the next few years,” she told Tower. “You have Solaire that is setting up a new casino in Quezon City that is going to be very big. Cebu is going to open, I think, three IRs. There’s going to be one in Cavite. There are talks of a Davao one. And then, different regions wherein, it’s outside Metro Manila, but obviously it’s going to help develop various industries around that area, and I think a lot of people are very excited about that.”
For new operators considering coming into the Philippines, while the regulators might be a bit more welcoming than other countries, there are still plenty of other groups to satisfy. “We have local governments, we have the church, we have these stakeholders that are really involved in community building,” she noted. “Right now I think PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) has required environmental certificates for operators, so also be concerned about the environment and make sure that the people around you, and the people that you’ll be working with understands the benefits of what your trying to build in the community.”
Finally, Quiogue wanted to comment on how negative media can affect the perception of her country, but to take it all with a grain of salt. She said:
“There’s going to be a lot of bad press. You know, there will be one incident or another that won’t shed a good light on the Philippines. But I think, overall, people should believe in the Philippines. As long as they follow the law, the rules, I think there is no reason why it would be difficult to do business in the Philippines.”