Philippine Gambling Industry Eyes 2026 Return To Pre-Pandemic Levels

As the Philippine gambling industry continues to close the door on the COVID lockdowns of the last two years and push boldly ahead, the outlook is – all things considered – quite positive.

In nearly every destination region, new Philippines casinos and gambling complexes (i.e. integrated resorts, or IRs, as they’re called in the country) are cropping up, such as the NUSTAR Resort and Casino complex in Cebu.

Meanwhile, in existing districts like Entertainment City, big changes are helping kickstart the industry, including domestic online casino gambling (albeit this is still limited to established VIPs and not average Filipino gamblers).

As a result of these moves, the gaming market – which saw catastrophic (but not quite Las Vegas catastrophic) downturns at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020-2021 – is now on pace to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2026.

According to Daniel Cecilio, head of the licensing and regulatory division of Philippine gambling regulator PAGCOR, new lockdowns aren’t expected even as COVID settles in as a potential annual or seasonal ailment going forward.

Of course, just because the lockdowns are over, that doesn’t mean everything can simply get back to normal overnight. Per Cecilio (via Reuters):

“Definitely there will be no more lockdowns but bringing back the confidence of players is hard.”

For perspective, the Philippine casino GGR – or gross gaming revenue (i.e. the collective industry “house take” after paying out winnings) was 256 billion PHP, or US$4.6 billion.

However, once COVID hit its peak, the GGR was cut by more than half. In 2020, the GGR was around 100 billion PHP (US$1.8 billion), and in 2021, numbers were only slightly better at 113 billion PHP (US$2 billion).

This year, for the first quarter, the Philippine gambling GGR is 39 billion PHP (US$702 million), putting the industry on track for a sizable recovery. However, it isn’t going to recover to those 2019 numbers for another few years still.

To date, there are 51 established casino venues in the Philippines, with 38 directly operated by PAGCOR. But there are also numerous new casino projects underway as gambling expansion continues full steam ahead in the islands.

Additionally, junket rules have recently been revised to make that segment of the tourism gambling market more palatable and safer (and thus inspire more confidence among its existing and prospective clientele), which should help move things along.

Per Sandy Amida of Newport World Resorts (Manila), the brand is “expanding our gaming areas to absorb junket groups that are coming.”

And with them, everything else is coming together, too.

Interestingly, though, the most surefire way that Philippine casinos could enjoy a bigger boost and possibly drive revenues to pre-pandemic levels before 2026 – the institution of expansive and inclusive domestic iGaming (i.e. not merely limiting the market to a few major operators and their VIP clientele) – is something that is unlikely to be considered any time soon.

That, of course, means that for Filipino gamblers who want to play online casino games and bet sports online in the Philippines, the only options are legitimate offshore gambling sites like those featured in our reviews.

These sites remain safe and legal to use in the Philippines, exactly as they were throughout the pandemic.

And for many players – if not most players – who made the switch to online over the last few years, the land-based domestic gambling game might be a relic of the past.

While the local gaming industry strives to get customer confidence back and reestablish itself as the leader in Southeast Asian gaming, it will take a different approach to win back the burgeoning online crowd.