COVID-19 bans and lockdowns affected the gaming industry worldwide, and projections place 2026 as a recovery date for the Philippines, in line with Macau and Singapore estimations.
Return to Normalcy Takes Time
All sectors of the entire hospitality industry were heavily affected by the not-so-recent pandemic and gambling was hit especially hard, as it infuses all elements into a single experience. As part of the gambling industry, tourists often make up a significant stream of revenue, and casinos are often a part of a complex that would also offer lodging and food and beverage in restaurants. Few would argue gaming can be a recreational activity as well, covering all major hospitality sectors. Everyone in the gaming industry was hit hard and places like the Philippines are no exception. However, the news is out that new projections see returning to pre-pandemic gross gaming revenue (GGR) levels by 2026, with the potential to surpass that if the current growth trends continue.
Reuters reported Daniel Cecilio – licensing and regulatory group chief of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) – saying that “Definitely there will be no more lockdowns,” but also stressing that players are still being cautious. Even if tourism picks up, and even if it hits levels higher than pre-pandemic ones, people are still anxious about going on spending sprees and gambling does have a way of attracting risk-takers, making the industry a bit more difficult to predict.
Pre-pandemic GGR levels (total gaming revenue after subtracting winnings) was sitting at around 256 billion pesos (US$4.60 billion) in 2019 – a record-high for the Philippines. When the pandemic hit and lockdowns started shutting down venues, 2020 revenue dropped more than 50%, to a smidge over 100 billion pesos (around US$2.04 billion as reported by GGRAsia). Results might seem tragic at first glance, but 4Q20 saw an almost 30% QoQ growth, and 2021 brought about a GGR of US$2.2 billion, marking a continuing growth trend. Projections also take into account 1Q22 GGR results, which total around 39 billion pesos (US$ 704.6 million), constituting another 30% jump compared to the same period in 2021, further feeding hopes for returning or even surpassing pre-pandemic results. This is in line with recovery expectations for Macau and Singapore. Outside of these predictions lies the outlier – Newport World Resorts, the owner of the first integrated casino resort in the Philippines, which Reuters reports expects to recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2023.
Favorable Winds Blow Philippines’ Way
While Beijing is still being severely staggered by its “Zero-COVID” strategy, the Philippine gaming industry is working hard to pick up the pace. Bloomberry was reported in May to be working on a new integrated resort in South Manila, making it the home of casino number three for Bloomberry in the country, further fueling the company’s land-bound casino investments.
With COVID restrictions lifted, tourists are starting to come back to the Philippines, as well as neighboring Macau and Singapore. Although July news from Macau showed a worrying trend of COVID-19 cases raising, Macau casinos there are still keeping the doors open with minimum staffing, which could potentially send gamblers the Philippines’ way. Further fueling growth is a potential US$1 billion investment from Hann Casinos, to develop more gaming capacity in the Philippines, and high rollers turned off by the current events in Macau might find the Philippines a great place to game with their money.