After earlier announcing that it would not be renewing the license of online games developer PhilWeb Corporation, the Philippine gaming regulator is now reportedly taking aim at the electronic bingo sector.
According to a report from the Bloomberg news service, electronic bingo is the most popular form of gambling in the Philippines and accounted for over three-quarters of the vertical’s revenues in the first half of the year. Official figures show that the numbers game brought in $207 million during the first six months of 2016 out of the $273 million gleaned nationwide from electronic gaming machines.
However, shares in the country’s largest electronic bingo operator, Leisure And Resorts World Corporation, have now plunged 21%, which represents their largest fall in almost eight years, after the Philippine Amusement And Gaming Corporation revealed that it would not be issuing new licenses or renew expiring permits for any form of electronic gambling.
“We will not issue new licenses and we will not renew expired licenses in both e-Bingo and e-Games,” Andrea Domingo, Chairperson for the Philippine Amusement And Gaming Corporation, told Bloomberg.
Leisure And Resorts World Corporation controls 35% of the Philippine electronic bingo market with some 8,585 e-Bingo machines installed across the archipelago as well as more than 100 bingo clubs.
“One can take these changes as the government overhauling and realigning the industry into something that is more controlled and regulated by weeding out the small gaming companies,” Jonathan Ravelas, Chief Market Strategist for Manila-based investment firm BDO Unibank Incorporated told Bloomberg. “But over the short term these changes will be taken negatively as markets by nature don’t like disruptions.”
The change in stance from the Philippine Amusement And Gaming Corporation follows the recent election of Rodrigo Duterte as the Asian nation’s 16th president. The 71-year-old took office on June 30 and has since vowed to “destroy” online gambling due to the “social ills and decay they foist on our communities as they cater to the more economically vulnerable portion of our population”.
Earlier this week, the largest shareholder in PhilWeb Corporation, Roberto Ongpin, offered to donate most of his stake to the Philippine Amusement And Gaming Corporation in an attempt to save the firm and safeguard the jobs of over 5,000 people. The businessman had earlier resigned as Chairman of the firm after Duterte referred to him as an “oligarch” and explained that his “no strings attached” offer would subsequently allow the government to retain a 49% stake in the company or sell its shares partially or in full.
Ongpin stated that his proposal represented a “final attempt to save the jobs of about 700 PhilWeb Corporation employees plus about 5,000 others” employed at 286 e-Games outlets who have been out of work since the firm’s license expired on August 10.
“I would also like to avoid a scenario where about 131 operators [who are business partners of PhilWeb Corporation] who have invested an estimated total of $38.89 million in their e-Games operations are suddenly deprived of their business and their investments go up in smoke,” read a statement from Ongpin.