Metro Manila Casinos Poised for Reopening as COVID-19 Restrictions Ease

  • Regional restrictions eased after two weeks of modified enhanced community quarantine
  • Casinos may be permitted to restart trials of gaming operations with invited guests
  • Region's casino operators are struggling to mitigate losses after mid-March closures
  • POGOs allowed to reopen in June, five forced to permanently close in wake of COVID-19
City of Dreams casino complex building in Manila
Philippines President Duterte has announced that the National Capital Region will ease COVID-19 restrictions in a move which could see casinos restart operations. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A return to general community quarantine

Metro Manila and its four nearby provinces will see their restrictions eased from August 19, which could see land-based casinos restart some operations in the area. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced Monday that the COVID-19 lockdown status in and around the country’s National Capital Region will return to general community quarantine (GCQ) level.

Metro Manila has been in modified enhanced community quarantine since August 4 – the second-highest level of restrictions. The measure was introduced in an attempt to alleviate the Philippine health system from the strain of increased COVID-19 cases. After a recent spike, the nation has now seen the highest number of virus cases in Southeast Asia.

unclear whether land-based casinos will be allowed to open

The reversion to GCQ will see nearly all industries gain permission to reopen, including restaurants. Although it is unclear whether land-based casinos will be allowed to open their doors, the region’s gambling businesses are expected to resume activity once current restrictions are eased.

Casino operators struggle to mitigate losses

Resorts World Manila and the three Entertainment City Integrated Resorts, City of Dreams Manila, Okada Manila, and Solaire, closed their doors in mid-March in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Starting June, Metro Manila casinos were permitted to run small trials of gaming operations under previous GCQ restrictions. This allowed them to invite guests to casinos and continue to generate some revenue amid the pandemic.

gambling operators have struggled to offset losses

Still, gambling operators have struggled to offset losses. In its Q2 trading update, Melco Resorts and Entertainment, the owner of City of Dreams Manila, reported a net loss of PHP2.4bn ($49.5m) – a significant drop from a profit of PHP1.1bn in 2019. Revenue for City of Dreams Manila was PHP387.2m ($8m) for the quarter, indicating a 96% year-on-year decline.

Bloomberry Resorts Corporation, the owner of Solaire Resort and Casino, announced a 92% drop in Q2 revenue to PHP940.9m ($19.3m). Solaire was able to generate revenue of PHP686.6m ($14.1m) for the quarter as a result of the introduction of ‘dry runs’, but this was still a decrease of 95% from 2019.

POGO reopenings and closures

While most land-based casinos remain shuttered, 11 Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) got the go-ahead to resume operations in June. POGOs were initially forced to suspend services from March 15 as COVID-19 took hold.

The pandemic, however, led five POGOs to shut down their business activity. A source close to The Philippine Star attributed their permanent closure to high overhead costs and prohibitive lease expenses, among other factors. More than 2,000 jobs have been lost as a result.