Gross gambling revenue from licensed casinos in the Philippines jumped more than 29 percent in 1Q22, confirming predictions that the country will be one of the best-performing markets in Asia going forward.
The majority of the first quarter income came from properties in Manila’s Entertainment City, while casinos in Clark made up around 9 percent of this GGR number and those from Fiesta made up 0.8 percent.
Total industry GGR reached P39.2 billion, rising from P30.0 billion in the prior-year period and P34.5 billion in 4Q21.
The country is one of the few markets in Asia where locals are allowed to gamble and prior to the crisis the economy had been one of the fastest-growing in the region.
“The recovery will be very strong and we expect the GGR to be coming back to 2019 levels by 2023,” said Scott Feeney, executive director of GCG Gaming Advisory Services. “The Philippines offers the perfect broad range of the three gaming destinations of Manila, Clark and Cebu, each having its own diverse attractions and having the locals and the Koreans as its main markets, which as we can see now is far more advantageous than Macau or Vietnam, which are heavily reliant on the Chinese.”
Feeney predicts the Philippines will match Singapore in terms of GGR next year and will potentially overtake it the following to become the second-largest market in Asia.
“The Philippines offers better value hotel, retail and food & beverage offerings than Singapore and in terms of pure gaming Manila, Clark and Cebu could all be visited in one 5-6 day trip offering 9-10 major integrated resorts as opposed to Singapore’s two,” he said.
After a slow start to the year due to the spread of Omicron, the Philippines opened its borders to international travelers in mid-February. The casinos were allowed to open without restrictions from March.
Daily arrivals doubled from 5,000 before February to 12,000 by end-March, according to the Philippines Bureau of Immigration (BIR).
Despite the open borders, operators and market watchers are expecting the majority of demand to come from the domestic market this year due to ongoing flight disruptions and a patchwork of different quarantine and testing requirements on return.
“As alert levels were reduced and travel restrictions were eased, we saw a gradual pick up in business,” said David Lawrence, general manager, casino, at Thunderbird Resorts, which operates two regional properties. “This was particularly noticeable when Alert Level 1 was announced.”
He said so far the response from the international market has been limited.
“We are seeing a slow response in this area but as with other operators we expect this to increase as flight schedules are ramped up and respective country restrictions are also eased.”
Andrew Klebanow, principal of C3 Gaming agrees.
“It remains to be seen if the Philippines’ international tourism industry recovers in 2022 or if a sustained recovery does not start into 2023,” he said.
“The relaxation of vaccine/testing requirements will certainly help but the real question is, what will be the requirements for international tourists once they try to return home?
Will their home nations require a negative test 24 hours prior to departing MNL, CRK or CEB?”
Angel Sueiro, chief operating officer of PH Resorts, which is developing the Emerald Bay on Cebu, adds that there is also a psychological barrier to travel, with tourists concerned about being caught up on new lockdowns.
“With more information trust should come back soon, and for some particular markets (for example Koreans), quick recovery is expected.”
The Philippines got a new president in early May after six years under President Rodrigo Duterte, who performed numerous U-turns when it came to the gaming industry. He came to power declaring his hatred for gambling, issuing a moratorium on new casino licenses in 2018 and shaking up the online industry.
However, Covid forced a change of heart as the government sought ways to replenish depleted coffers. He lifted his moratorium and approved an omni-channel model of online gambling, which allowed the country’s casinos and gaming platforms to offer products online. It is the only jurisdiction in Asia to do so.
At the time of writing, the incoming administration of Ferdinand Marco Jnr has not set out its policies towards the industry, although he is believed to be business-friendly and no red flags have been raised.
If he stays the course, foreign investment interest in the Philippines is likely to remain strong.
“The Philippines is expected to be the fastest-growing gaming market in Asia so investor interest is high. “Due to its geographical size, there is still potential in the Philippines for both IR’s and boutique gaming operations.”David Lawrence, Thunderbird Resorts
Okada listing pushed back after boardroom takeover
The listing of Okada Manila on the NASDAQ has been delayed by three months following the forcible takeover of the property by Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada on May 31st.
The company’s parent announced last year that it was planning to obtain the listing through a merger with a special acquisition company, 26 Capital. Parent company Universal said it had pushed back the deadline for the merger from June 30th to September 30th to allow it to update information in a registration statement that has already been filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The update is to warn of the latest developments and the potential risks. Kazuo Okada was ousted from the board of TRLEI in 2017 on charges of embezzling $3 million from the company. He has been fighting to regain control of the asset ever since.
In May, the Philippines Supreme Court issued a status quo ante order (SQAO) that mandated that Okada be restored as chairman and CEO of the group. Shortly thereafter, a group of 50 entered the property and took control, ousting the existing management.
LRWC puts mobile first in BingoPlus revamp
Leisure & Resorts World Corp is revamping its BingoPlus brand in order to tap into the mobile-savvy gaming customer. LRWC said it had updated the logo of BingoPlus to “meet today’s growing demand for a mobile-first environment that complements different digital spaces.”
The new BingoPlus logo is said to “represent the fun, lively and dynamic products of the brand.” The revamped brand is aimed at meeting the requirements for both offline and online use and has the capability to maximize growth in the mobile-first environment across multiple markets, LRWC said.
Earlier this year, Leisure & Resorts World Corp. (LRWC) said it had been given permission for the first online bingo offering in the Philippines, as the country expands its domestic igaming market.