The current situation in the Philippines is hard to assess. A lack of COVID-19 testing means that the 5453 positive cases the country knows about may be badly underestimating the situation. As many Filipinos continue to break quarantine, the online gaming and land-based gambling industries are taking their best guesses at when a sense of normalcy might resume.
On April 15, Labor Undersecretary Dominique Tutay suggested that if the enhanced quarantine ends in early May, as is currently expected, Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators will be allowed to resume operations immediately. “POGOs will continue as long they are allowed by law. We will just continue our initiative to regulate and ensure that these firms are compliant with labor and immigration laws as well as payment of taxes,” Tutay said.
In the rest of the interview, Tutay hit on all of the typical POGO issues you’d expect to hear from a government official before there was a pandemic. She’s concerned about illegal immigrants and payment on taxes, mostly.
While it’s probably the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation’s (PAGCOR) ultimate call on what happens next with POGOs, the source we spoke to in the industry are already preparing for a return to the office. They hope to return to work in early May, as Tutay suggested they could, but expect a full return is more likely in June or July. Assuming that doesn’t happen, they are already preparing to conduct operations from home for several more months.
But if they can return to the office, they won’t go back in full force just yet. Perhaps assuming things will get a bit crazy once the lockdown ends, our POGO sources indicated they will go with a barebones staff at first, and assess on a week by week basis how many more staff can return to the office.
Also hoping that the quarantine will end on May 1 is PhilWeb, operator of eGames cafes. The company has put 184 employees on leave until April 30, but hopes to re-open sooner if the lockdown ends prematurely. The move was “to ensure adequate availability of resources when the company resumes its business operations.”
One company that doesn’t expect the quarantine to end is Universal Entertainment, operator of Okada Manila. In a revision to their business results forecast, Universal noted that they expect President Rodrigo Duterte to extend the lockdown by at least another two weeks.
Their expected loss in sales as a result of this pandemic is fairly steep. With a two month closure, they expect an 18.8% decline in net income on a 7.9% fall in sales for 2020. By the raw numbers, that means a drop from 190 billion yen ($1.76 billion) to 175 billion yen ($1.63 billion), with a drop in net income from 32 billion yen ($300 million) to 26 billion yen ($242 million).