‘Go Ahead and Gamble’ Philippine President Duterte Says in About-Face Amid Pandemic

  • Duterte’s change of heart comes from the Philippines running out of money because of COVID-19
  • The president admitted to his previous anti-online gambling stance
  • In November, PAGCOR allowed integrated resorts in Manila to take bets online
  • PAGCOR was losing $118m of potential revenue monthly during the pandemic shutdowns
Manila City and Manila Bay
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has done an about-face on online gambling amid his country’s ongoing struggle against the pandemic, saying it was running out of money. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Gaming stocks rise after declaration

The historically anti-online gambling Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has done a startling about-face in his stance on the subject, with Bloomberg reporting that gaming stocks have risen following his announcement earlier this week.

“Go ahead and gamble” was the proclamation issued from Duterte’s office on July 7. Bloomberg took to Twitter yesterday to share the President’s change of heart, which comes from his awareness of the need to boost his country’s coffers amid the pandemic.

“Now that we need money,” Durterte said, “the most sensible thing is really just to encourage those activities.”

might sound “repugnant to some” they’d have to “deal with it”

Duterte’s comments come from a pre-recorded meeting with his political party officials, reported the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on July 7. He added that while encouraging gambling activities might sound “repugnant to some” they’d have to “deal with it.”

Duterte said his country was running out of money because of COVID-19 and that the Philippines had “used up” all of its reserve funds to combat the virus.

Duterte admits former hard-line stance

According to the PNA report, Duterte faced up to the fact he was previously anti-online gambling, going as far as pointing out that he even “insisted on a no-casino policy in […] Boracay and Bohol.”

In late May, a sharp spike in the rise of new variant COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia led to a mixed bag of reactions from casinos across the region. At the time, a mandate issued by Duterte ordered all Metro Manila casinos to shutter until June 15, and then on June 28 extended the General Community Quarantine Restrictions (GCQ) for Metro Manila until July 15. The GCQ mandate means while Manila’s integrated resorts remain off-limits to the public, invited guests are still allowed.

Reports following the Philippine president’s comments on Wednesday also quote him as saying casinos and mostly Chinese-market-facing online gambling operators should pay their fair share in taxes.

The Southeast Asian country makes tax revenue from its Philippines Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) scheme, which currently licenses over 50 online gaming operators.

New Philippine gambling landscape emerging

In October 2020, The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) first raised the idea it was considering proposals to permit brick-and-mortar casinos to introduce online gambling.

PAGCOR went full tilt boogie with the scheme in Manila, allowing integrated resorts to take bets online

On November 3, PAGCOR went full-tilt boogie with the scheme in Manila, allowing integrated resorts to take bets online. Applications from City of Dreams Manila, Okada Manila, Resorts World Manila, and Solaire Resort and Casino were were all approved, according to PAGCOR president Alfredo Lim.

Like Duterte’s proclamation on Wednesday, the online wagering scheme introduced by PAGCOR comes on the back of government and casino operators seeking additional income streams in light of the pandemic’s financial impact. In late March/early April 2020, PAGCOR reported it was losing $118m of potential revenue monthly as a result of the country’s gambling properties being shuttered.

But after Duterte’s turnaround this week, casino and gaming stocks are now on the rise in the Philippines. On July 8, stock in Solaire Resort & Casino’s owners’ Bloomberry Resorts Corp. was up 6.5%, while online betting firm PhilWeb Corp. enjoyed a 7.5% rise.