Philippines Moves Towards Privatizing State-Owned Casinos With $1.5B Transaction

The Philippines has long contemplated selling its state-owned casinos. Authorities have stated that the likelihood of the properties being sold to commercial gaming operators is now greater than ever before.

Alejandro Tengco, chair of the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), revealed that the nation is considering disposing of its government-owned casinos and gaming satellites. It is believed that the Philippines may be able to obtain around $1.5 billion from the sale. (Image: SIGMA)

The Philippines is home to both private and state-owned casinos. The government’s gaming venues are currently operated under the Casino Filipino brand. The country runs nine full-scale Casino Filipino venues and 34 satellite gaming locations, which are usually located in hotels and retail shopping centers.

PAGCOR is in charge of managing the Casino Filipino casinos and satellite branches. It is also responsible for regulating commercial casinos, including the four integrated resorts in Manila.

The gaming industry in the Philippines has flourished following the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the country’s casinos generated a gross gaming revenue of PHP184 billion (US$3.3 billion) – almost on a par with 2019 figures.

In light of the pandemic’s negative financial impact on the Philippines government, President Bongbong Marcos believes selling PAGCOR’s physical assets could help generate quick cash.

Steep Price Tag

Alejandro Tengco took up the role of PAGCOR chair in August 2020, two months after Marcos became president. At the ASEAN Gaming Summit, which was held at the Manila Marriott Hotel, Tengco mentioned the country’s intent to sell its state-owned casinos.

“We are seriously considering privatization of all PAGCOR-operated casinos,” Tengco said. “It is my hope we will be able to implement privatization during my term.”

Tengco’s term may be extended up until 2028, corresponding to the presidency. The PAGCOR chair stated that the Philippines is expecting to raise around 80 billion pesos (US$1.47 billion) by divesting its casinos.

Out of the total gaming revenue of $3.3 billion generated by Philippines casinos in 2022, only $292.5 million came from Casino Filipino properties. Licensed commercial casinos in Manila, Entertainment City, Fiesta, and Clark took the lion’s share with GGR of around $2.65 billion.

Optimistic Outlook

A number of casino analysts focused on Southeast Asia are convinced that 2023 will be even better for the Philippines’ gaming industry. With Macau no longer serving as the primary destination for high-rollers due to the crackdown by China on junket groups, it is anticipated that those VIP-focused touring operators will shift their operations to other markets, with Manila being a major favorite.

The capital of the Philippines boasts three luxurious casino resorts in Entertainment City – Solaire, City of Dreams, and Okada. Resorts World is also situated nearby in downtown Manila.

The flight from Hong Kong to Manila takes less than two and a half hours. It is a three hours and 40 minutes trip from Shanghai to Manila.

In accordance with China’s “one country, two systems” policy principles, Macau informed its six gaming operators during their relicensing last year to invest significantly into non-gaming projects. The six casino licensees must, as a group, invest around $13.5 billion in developments unrelated to gaming over the 10-year period of their concessions, which ends in 2033.

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