Philippine gaming operator and regulator PAGCOR has recorded some PHP55.05 billion ($1 billion) in income from gaming operations in 2022, up 68.7 percent yearly.

According to information filed by the regulator on Monday, PAGCOR received a total of PHP58.96 billion ($1.07 billion) in income during the period, up 66.15 percent yearly.

Profit for the regulator also increased during the year, totaling PHP4.44 billion ($81.4 million), up by 2,084 percent yearly, the highest earnings since the pandemic began, but still a sharp drop compared to the PHP9.65 billion ($176.77 million) in profit made in 2019 and far short of the PHP31.79 billion ($581.96 million) registered in 2018.

Fourth quarter income totaled PHP15.9 billion ($291 million), up by 9.3 percent quarter-to-quarter.

The figures come as PAGCOR is under fire from numerous fronts, with calls for the body to divide its regulatory and operational arms in order to remove any “conflict of interest”, a proposal to ban offshore gaming operators in the nation (POGOs), and a call to privatize its assets to contribute to a newly proposed sovereign wealth fund (Maharlika Investment Fund).

The 2022 results demonstrate a strong move forward as the nation progressively lifted COVID restrictions in the early months of the year, contributing to its ramp-up towards the end.

Now, the government is pushing for increased tourism and spending opportunities, aiming to double its tourism figures in 2023 and attract 5 million foreign visitors.

This would be a solid increase over the 2.6 million recorded in 2022, which already far exceeded the 1.7 million tourists expected during the period.

However, it still falls short of the 8.26 million visitors to the nation in 2019, of which Chinese tourists totaled 1.74 million.

The boost in tourism is expected to set a base for the nation’s economic growth estimate of 6.5 percent in GDP in 2023 – marking the nation as the fastest-growing economy of ASEAN nations.

This prediction comes despite the push to ban POGOs, which could impact growth forecasts given that the industry employs some 20,000 people.

PAGCOR estimates for POGO revenues in 2023 are for PHP3.45 billion ($60.87 million), rising steadily in coming years to PHP10.22 billion ($180.26 million) by 2027.