The new President of the Philippines is wasting no time in putting his foot down on matters that he considers in need of some governmental intervention, such as online gambling entertainment. Based on the President’s request, Andrea Domingo, the new chairman of PAGCOR, has announced that they are placing a freeze on issuing any more online gambling licenses. However, the President does not intend to stop there, and has requested that Domingo rescind existing online gambling licenses within the near future.
This is a huge blow and comes just weeks after it was announced that a new gaming jurisdiction would soon begin offering gambling licenses to both brick and mortar and online gambling companies.
What triggered this presidential assault on the online gambling industry in the Philippines? Officials took notice of dramatic increases among the interactive gaming segment of the industry and were alarmed at the rate of growth. Internet cafes jumped from 170 to 277 within six years. Interactive gambling terminals jumped from 4462 to 7000, and e-bingo machines went from 2160 to 12,000. The increases took place between 2010 and 2016 under the watchful eye of President Benigno Aquino.
Included in the exponential growth in online gambling were a variety of games, such as video poker, slot machines and card, table and lottery based games. The new Filipino President is staunchly opposed to allowing the growth to continue, or even allowing state regulated and legal online casinos in the Philippines to exist at all. Gaming in general is a significant portion of the nation’s revenue, and makes up 90% of PAGCOR’s annual income. PAGCOR, also known as the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp is involved in the licensing and regulation of the gambling industry in the Philippines, and operates under the Office of the President.
Online gambling customers are not the only ones affected by the President’s crackdown on interactive gambling. PhilWeb Corp shares declined 32% in response to the announcement. They operate nearly 9000 gaming terminals and more than 275 internet cafes. Their customer base totals around 90K players. Also impacted by a drop in shares was Leisure & Resorts World Corp, the licensed provider of online and land based gambling in the Cagayan Special Economic Zone. They saw an 8.9% decrease due to the announcement.
Many are concerned that President Dueterte has not considered the economic impact that barring online gambling might have on the nation. Domingo has indicated that once licensing is frozen, they will be able to take a step back and look at the situation from all angles, including what the current online gambling laws in the Philippines dictate, what economic affects this might have on the nation , and be able address the President’s concerns. At this point in time, the regulated online gambling industry in the Philippines can only be considered uncertain at best.