Domingo hopes casinos to reopen in June, take down NOGOs

PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Andrea Domingo on Tuesday said she hopes to see gaming operations reopen gradually from the beginning of June.

The chairwoman was speaking through a digitally delivered keynote session as part of ICE Asia Digital 2020. 

“In the Philippines, we are suffering as much as everybody else. [Perhaps] to a lesser degree due to fewer infections, and fewer deaths. But still, the economy is at a standstill,” she said. 

“We hope at the beginning of this month, we will be able to resume operations on a [gradual] basis.”

However, Domingo said she expects gaming venues to open with less staff, fewer gaming machines, and tables, as well as strict social distancing and stringent hygiene and protection measures. 

“It is the most important during these times to stay healthy, and stay safe away from COVID-19,” she said.

Domingo also stressed the importance of maintaining the 132,000 strong workforce in the country’s gaming industry, and on the side noted Okada Manila’s recent furlough of 1,000 employees due to lower demand.

“We hope to stem the bleeding, we hope not to lose any more jobs,” she commented. 

The regulator also stressed the need to maximize revenue collection. Not only to fight and vaccinate the population against COVID-19 but to jump-start the stalled economy.

Domingo said that they would be focused on taking down illegal online gaming companies (NOGOs) which have sprung up amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

“One problem with the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has created a vacuum where people [are staying] at home with their computers – preyed on by very enterprising illegal gaming operators, who are enticing them to bet through Facebook, phones, etc.”

“That is what we want to destroy once we get to operate again.”

In an earlier interview with Clarion Gaming, Madam Domingo said there were a number of hurdles that should be navigated in order for the regulator to maintain its lead in the region as a regional tourism, entertainment and amusement hub, including competition from other countries with developing gaming industries, politics, conservatives who believe gambling is evil, and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When asked about whether the moratorium placed on POGO licenses will be lifted anytime soon, Domingo said that “until we finish our evaluation of the whole operating manual on POGOs and have arrived at a much superior one, we will not lift the ban.”