The Philippine Games and Amusements Corporation (PAGCOR) has requested permission from the government to resume online gambling activities and VIP casino operations in order to contribute to the financing of the country’s fight against the coronavirus.
The president of the Philippine regulatory body, Andrea Domingo, requested this weekend to the Government Interagency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, authorization to end the suspension of some “high-income” gaming operations that the authorities imposed to cope with the Covid-19 outbreak.
The request includes Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) who hold a PAGCOR license who had to suspend all operations last week by order of the authorities, even though they had initially received permission to continue if employees worked from their houses.
Domingo requested that the VIP casino activity be resumed in person or by phone via proxy gambling. The PAGCOR president has compared POGOs to business process outsourcing (BPO) operations, which are authorized to continue operating remotely.
The regulator ordered to suspend all casino operations from March 15, however, it considers that VIP operations can be maintained if the ‘social distancing’ protocols are respected, since high-roller tables usually place one or two players at a time.
With the resumption of operations, the PAGCORs could recover up to 50-60% of their usual income before the closure of these establishments was decreed. Domingo said the money raised would serve to help mitigate the tremendous economic and social impact caused by the virus.
PAGCOR announced monday the release of P12b in cash dividends to the government that will help fund efforts against the coronavirus. This amount represents a little more than 45% of half of the annual dividends that PAGCOR delivers to the government, which is indicative of the urgency that the regulator sees in supporting the fight against the current crisis.
The Philippine gaming industry has also said it wants to help the government in its efforts to combat the virus. The head of PAGCOR revealed that the POGOs donated P150m (US $ 2.93m), which will be used for the Covid-19 campaign. The land-based casinos that operate in the Entertainment City games area of Manila, meanwhile, promised the government to contribute an additional P200 million in cash and other assets.
These contributions, however, have not been sufficient for some critical sectors of the game. One of them is the representative, Robert Barbers, who considers that the P150 million donation by the POGOs is only “a tiny part of the taxes that were due to the Philippine government”.
Barbers on the other hand urged the Internal Revenue Office and PAGCOR to “compel” the POGOs to pay P50b ($ 976m) in unpaid taxes. He also warned that the Philippine government should not be fooled “by a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”