Philippine high rollers will soon be allowed to place bets in the comfort of their own homes after the gaming regulator allowed integrated resort casinos to offer online gambling to partially recoup billions of dollars of lost revenues amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Philippines is the first in the region to introduce such a move, which is part of slew of online gambling projects to attract Filipinos and, later on, foreigners to place bets and generate much-needed revenue for the government.
Anti-virus measures have seen casinos close for months and kept gamblers away.
Online gambling, which will be exclusively for Filipino high rollers, may begin as early as this month, said Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp Chairman Andrea Domingo.
“It would be good to collect revenues and stop illegal gambling because there’s a lot of illegal gambling on social media,” Domingo said in the Asia Gaming Brief virtual forum.
Bloomberry Resorts Corp and another casino operator north of the capital have earlier secured the regulator’s approval to take online bets.
Integrated resort casinos like Okada Manila and City of Dreams of Hong Kong’s Melco Resorts & Entertainment, both in the capital Manila, have also applied for license to offer online gambling.
Filipino VIPs account for around 10% to 15% of casinos’ revenues, said Mark Gilbert, an online gaming consultant.
Gross gaming revenues of the Philippine gaming sector plunged 60% to 73 billion pesos ($1.5 billion) in January to September versus the same period in 2019, data from the gaming regulator showed.
The government has been gradually easing coronavirus curbs. It allowed to casinos in the capital to reopen at 30% capacity in September.
The gaming regulator, which is directly under President Rodrigo Duterte’s office, is waiting to get approval to regulate online cockfighting.
($1 = 48.05 Philippine pesos) —Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Additional Reporting by Farah Master in Hong Kong; Editing by Kim Coghill