Philippine Casinos Set to Launch Online Gambling Soon

Philippine high rollers will soon be able to gamble remotely with some of the country’s casino resorts as part of the Philippines’ efforts to offset at least a portion of the revenue losses caused by the closure of land-based gambling venues due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Three integrated resorts located in Manila’s Entertainment City precinct were among the first properties to have been given the green light to offer online gambling. The Chair of the Philippines’ gambling regulator PAGCOR, Andrea Domingo, said this week that Solaire Resort & Casino, Okada Manila, and City of Dreams Manila will all be offering iGaming services to their Philippine VIP patrons.

Philippines Tells POGOs to Pay Taxes or Else

These three and other casino resorts in the country will conduct online gambling activities exclusively for Philippine high rollers under so-called Philippine Inland Gaming Operator (PIGO) licenses.

PIGO permits should not be mistaken with POGO (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator) licenses which authorize their holders to provide gambling services to players overseas. The Philippines’ thriving POGO sector has recently been under heavy scrutiny from China as part of a mainland clampdown on Chinese residents engaging in online gambling, an activity that is banned in China.

Ms. Domingo said that PIGO services are exclusively aimed at VIP players who are already on PAGCOR’s player database. Philippine casino operators are only allowed to offer online gambling services to residents of the country.

Customers Must Deposit/Withdraw Funds at Physical Casinos

Under PAGCOR’s PIGO program, VIP players that want to engage in digital gambling will be required to deposit funds at the physical casino they usually play at. They will also need to visit the casino in order to withdraw funds. Ms. Domingo said these visits will be necessary for “regulatory purposes.”

PIGO gambling services are expected to be launched by the end of the month or early next year.

Ms. Domingo said that people banned from physical casinos and minors would not be permitted to gamble online. In addition, casinos will use facial recognition technology to confirm their players’ identity.

PIGO license holders will have to pay a 25% tax on their gross gaming revenue and a 5% franchise tax as well as a PHP100,000 license fee. Computer servers for PIGO services must be housed within the licensed brick-and-mortar casinos, Ms. Domingo said this week.

The Philippines is the first country in the region to introduce inland online gambling for VIP high rollers. It should also be noted that the PIGO initiative is the first of several projects promoted by the country as it looks to recoup billions of Philippine pesos in lost revenues this year due to anti-pandemic measures.

These measures saw casinos remain closed for months and burn through cash. Gross gambling revenue dropped 60% to PHP73 billion (approx. $1.5 billion) in the nine months to September 30 versus the same period a year ago, according to PAGCOR data.

Casinos in Manila were eventually allowed to resume operations at 30% capacity in September but that would not be enough to offset the massive losses they suffered this year.

Ms. Domingo said PAGCOR currently does not have estimates on the revenue that could be generated by PIGO licensees. She added that the new licensing scheme would help the regulator combat illegal online gambling, including activities conducted across social media.

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