Philippines-based casino operator Bloomberry Resorts is ready to write off 2020 as the government extends the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
This week, Bloomberry boss Enrique Razon told Bloomberg TV that he’s far less concerned with the current state of his business than he is with limiting further spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Razon (pictured), whose interests also include major shipping terminals around the globe, said “the concerns of businesses are secondary at this point.”
All Philippine casinos, including Bloomberry’s Solaire Resort & Casino in Manila’s Entertainment City gaming zone, have been closed since March 15 following the government’s declaration of a public health emergency. On Tuesday, the government extended that shutdown on the main island of Luzon until the end of April, after which the government will reassess the situation.
Even assuming the infection rate slows to the point where the shutdown can be lifted, Razon warned that restarting the economy – including the gaming industry – “is going to be very tricky, a lot of people are underestimating what this is really going to take.”
Razon also warned that shell-shocked consumers will likely “dramatically increase” their rate of savings once they get back to work, just in case predictions of an ‘echo’ outbreak prove prescient. “So I don’t think consumer spending will recover that quickly.”
That conflicts with the views of Las Vegas Sands boss Sheldon Adelson who, like Razon, made a repeat appearance on this year’s Forbes billionaires list. Sands execs recently predicted that the current restrictions on visiting Asia-Pacific casinos would create “pent-up demand” and that the region’s gamblers “will come back in force.”
Like Adelson, Razon has been using his wealth to minimize the fallout of the pandemic. Razon’s construction unit is currently helping the government convert a Manila sports stadium into an emergency medical facility. Bloomberry has also donated over $1m in personal protection equipment to frontline medical teams.
The gambling shutdown has not only hurt the bottom line of local gaming operators but also that of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), which says its revenue is currently down $118m per month. PAGCOR has requested the right to restart certain low-risk/high-volume gaming verticals but the government has to date rejected these requests.