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Pagcor CEO: Philippines gambling industry returns to pre-pandemic levels

| By Robert Fletcher
Alejandro Tengco, chairman and CEO of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), says the country’s gambling industry has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Pagcor Philippines

Speaking over the weekend Tengco said the lifting of travel and movement restrictions has increased leisure, travel and entertainment activities. This, the Pagcor chief said, will help sustain the growth trajectory of the Philippines gaming industry for years to come.

Like many other regions, the Philippines had to endure strict measures during the Covid-19 pandemic. These included restrictions on travel to and from the country and the temporary closure of land-based facilities.

However, with all measures having now been lifted, this has allowed the country’s gambling industry to bounce back. 

Tengco said the sector is now at a point where gross gaming revenue (GGR) is just short of 2019, the last full year before the pandemic and a year in which Pagcor reported record gaming revenue.

Just last week, Pagcor reported its results for the first nine months of 2023. Revenue during the period reached PHP55.95bn (£808.6m/€933.2m/$1.00bn). Most of this was classed as gaming and operations, with this amounting to PHP51.66bn.

The Pagcor chief added that if these current trends continue, the country’s industry could set new GGR records in 2023. 

“Today, we expect the 2023 GGR to match, if not surpass, our 2019 record,” Tengco said. “Not bad considering that many of our traditional high rollers and junkets have not fully returned, but our domestic players and the influx of new tourists have filled the void.”

More integrated resorts will support growth in the Philippines

Looking to the future and further potential for the local market, Tengco says several factors will support growth. These include the opening of more integrated resorts, such as those in the Clark Freeport Zone and Special Economic Zone.

Clark is a former US airbase in Pampanga that has been developed into a popular tourist destination. It also boasts a range of other entertainment facilities.

“Clark is projected to become a major gaming and tourism hub before the end of this decade,” Tengco said. “If you go around Clark, you can see its immense potential.

“You can see the infrastructure in place. You can see the surrounding tourist destinations. And you can see the new buildings and new commercial districts being developed in all directions.” 

Pagcor rolls out modernisation programme

As to what Pagcor is doing, Tengo said the agency is launching a modernisation programme to increase revenue. 

This includes plans to roll out 3,000 new slot machines by January 2024. Tengco says Pagcor has an agreement in place with a supplier for a revenue-sharing scheme for these machines. Through this, Tengco said Pagcor expect to generate at least PHP18.00bn in revenue over the next five years.

Pagcor is also modernising its table games with new games to help attract more players and further increase revenues.

On top of this, Tengco says plans are progressing with the launch of a new online platform. The agency in July said it would enter the online gambling market by launching Casinofilipino.com, with this due to go live in Q1 of 2024.

Tengco says Pagcor is now in the process of procuring a system for the platform. He adds that this will give Pagcor a “significant share of the very lucrative and very profitable online market”.

A purely regulatory role for Pagcor?

The declaration of growth intent comes after Pagcor last month suggested it would step back from its gambling operations.

Tengco said the organisation would look to transition to a “purely regulatory” body. This is set to lead to the privatisation of its gambling operations.

Tengco said this will help “level the playing field” and allow for future growth and viability among other operators.

Pagcor currently operates the Casino Filipino chain of casinos, with eight properties active across the country.

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