Andrea Domingo (pictured in a file photo), chairman and chief executive of the Philippine casino regulator, said in a keynote speech there had been “hope” at “the beginning of this coming month, June” on a “graduated basis” to reopen the Philippine casinos shuttered during the Covid-19 emergency. Her speech was streamed for the inaugural edition of ICE Asia on Monday.
But the head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) gave no specifics in her speech on when or even whether a June reopening would be possible.
The large-scale resorts at the Entertainment City zone in Metro Manila have been closed since mid-March due to the emergency.
This year’s ICE Asia, a conference for the regional casino industry, is being delivered online because of the pandemic.
GGRAsia approached the organisers of the event seeking clarification from Pagcor on the timing of casino reopening, and whether or not Ms Domingo’s speech to ICE Asia was pre-recorded, but had not received replies by the time this story went online.
Ms Domingo indicated in her address that the industry would like to “stem the bleeding” associated with more than two months of zero casino revenue. She mentioned as an example some recently-announced plans to cut 1,000 jobs from Okada Manila, although she didn’t mention the resort by name.
She noted however, indirectly referring to Okada Manila, which is controlled by Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp: “They could not afford, even in the event that they are allowed to operate – the ‘new normal’ – [of] wearing masks, keeping distance and all the extra costs for health and safety,” without cutting costs.
“We hope not to lose any more jobs,” she added .
Ms Domingo hinted at some obstacles facing the operators in terms of changes on the gaming floors once properties do restart.
“We cannot do it [reopening] with 100 percent of our workforces. We cannot do it using all of our machines and all of our tables, because we have to have social distancing; we have to have testing; for those who test positive, they cannot work. We have to have so many disinfecting mechanisms and so many protective things that we have to do,” she added.
The Pagcor CEO further noted: “We have to maintain the employment of the 132,000 direct-hires of the gaming industry. And we have to maximise revenue collection because our government – as all governments – needs the money” raised from the regulated casino industry.
Public revenue from casino gaming would not only be allocated for dealing with Covid-19 but also for the “jump-starting of the economy” after the coronavirus crisis is over, she added.
Ms Domingo also mentioned costs associated with player tracking and complying with the country’s anti-money laundering law.
Pagcor said on Friday it had remitted “an additional PHP5 billion” (US$100.3 million) in what it termed “cash dividends” to the country’s treasury, which it said brought the agency’s total dividend contribution for 2019 to PHP17 billion.
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”Despite the re-opening of the integrated resort [Okada Manila], we believe there are significant risks to the segment’s recovery in view of travel restrictions, potential new outbreaks and further lockdowns that could weigh on earnings and cash flows”