The Coronavirus pandemic has been a large looming problem for the Philippines since news of the situation broke out earlier this year. While neighboring countries such as Taiwan and Vietnam have successfully controlled the spread of infection, the reported third world country has continuously seen a rise in confirmed cases throughout recent months. Deemed now as a possible epicenter in the Southeast Asian region, the Philippines currently has a record of 248,947 cases, the highest tally seen within the Western Pacific.
In efforts to curb the spread of the virus, the Philippine government has been going back and forth to stricter lockdown regulations as active cases take a huge toll on the country’s healthcare system. Multiple small and medium-scale businesses are struggling to survive as the economy goes into recession, having its gross domestic product shrink by a record 16.5% in the second quarter of 2020. With majority of the population restricted to their homes, gaming revenue for casino operators have also taken a significant hit with the capital’s leading integrated resort operators reported losses of USD 96.2 million for Solaire, USD 75.9 million for Resorts World Manila, USD 49.9 million for Okada Manila and USD 49.4 million for City of Dreams Manila.
“We want to ensure the safety of our people. However, some sectors, especially the MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) are barely surviving”, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a press release.
Gaming establishments allowed to resume
In Melco International Development Ltd’s six-month financial filing, the parent company of City of Dreams Manila revealed in an announcement, “On August 24, 2020, the Philippine government allowed PAGCOR-licensed casinos in areas covered by the General Community Quarantine to operate at 30 percent operational capacity,” and that the company is “preparing for the resumption of its normal operations in accordance with the terms and conditions of this new guideline.”
Amid the devastating impacts brought about by the global health crisis, major casinos in the metro have been given the green light to reopen its doors to the public late last month with a maximum 30% operational capacity as reported by Melco Resorts. All gaming establishments in Manila have been officially closed since mid-March as a direct result of the pandemic. The granted permission comes in following of the previous “dry run” allowed by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) in anticipation of the necessary health and safety practices required once a more relaxed quarantine ensues.
“Such dry run operations, which involve only in-house and select invited guests, are a means for Solaire to fine-tune its services in accordance with new normal health and safety protocols”, Solaire stated in its second quarter results announcement.
The reported dry run operations granted Solaire a window of opportunity to generate a gross gaming revenue of Php686.6 million (US$14.1 million) for the second quarter of 2020, of which VIP contributed Php121.7 million (US$2.5 million), mass table games Php303.7 million (US$6.2 million) and electronic gaming machines Php261.1 million (US$5.3 million).
Now with a directive to resume operations, Solaire Resort & Casino has announced its “phasing plan” to gradually increase capacity whilst improving hygiene and safety protocols. Top of the line disinfecting chambers, foot baths and temperature scanners at every entry point are available to ensure safety and security of its premium clientele. Plexiglass shields and social distancing floor markers have also been placed to facilitate safe transactions with surfaces frequently touched constantly sanitized.
“We fully understand the deep concerns on cleanliness, sanitation and even social distancing. We have taken the necessary steps to address these and implemented changes to our procedures to safeguard everyone’s well-being. The health and safety of our guests and team members remain to be our utmost priority.”, Solaire President and COO Thomas Arasi reportedly told Inside Asian Gaming.
Similar to nearby IR resorts, Universal Entertainment has confirmed Okada Manila will resume operations at 30% capacity with no specific date provided for its reopening. “We will thoroughly implement hygiene management protocols such as disinfection and cleaning according to the modes of operation of each facility, and strive to operate facilities that customers can enjoy at ease.”, the company stated.
In a tweet earlier this week, the casino operator revealed its “3T campaign (True clean. True safe. True heart.)”, which feature stringent measures that go well beyond the minimum safety standards set by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID). The campaign announcement shares the measures implemented across the establishment such as visitor entry limited to ages 21 to 59 years old, wearing of both face mask and face shield at all times, social distancing protocols and sanitation efforts to limit the spread and contact of the virus.
Taking into account the numerous health and safety measures being imposed at these locations, major gaming operators are putting in a lot of effort to offset losses, satisfy player demands and provide a risk-free facility for its members. The green light to resume operations after almost six months is the first step to reopening up the economy once again with many hopefuls of plans moving forward.
PokerStars Live Manila remains closed
Additionally, the PokerStars Live Manila poker room located in Okada, Manila remains to be closed as of the moment. Contacted by Somuchpoker, the venue reported no definite plans yet of when to reopen its facilities. So far, live poker in the country remains non-existent given the higher risks involved with the sport. Biggest poker room in the capital, Metro Card Club similarly remains closed considering the current situation in the metro.