From Asia to LatAm: Limitations and closures for gaming due to COVID-19

Empty casinos in the world, to avoid crowds that spread the Coronavirus.

The Philippines, Argentina and some areas of the United States join Europe as territories in which access to casinos and gambling rooms has been canceled or reduced for the next 15 days, to curb the effects of the global pandemic.

The constant advance of infected and killed by Coronavirus in the world has the entire planet on alert. In this sense, the gaming industry has not been able to stay apart when it comes to reducing the contagion of people to the minimum possible. Authorities in different countries have made decisions to prevent the spread of the disease, which is already causing great loss of lives and economies.

In Manila, Philippines, all casino operations have been recently suspended by regulator, The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). The suspension applies to land-based casinos, electronic game (eGames), bingo (traditional and electronic), sports betting, poker and slot machine clubs, and other activities regulated by PAGCOR. The decision was taken after last Thursday’s announcement of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who said Metro Manila (a region with about 12 million people, also known as the national capital region) would be on a lockdown for a month, effective from March 15th to April 14th, subject to daily review, to help contain the outbreak of the Coronavirus. The local government also imposed travel restrictions on foreign arrivals to the territory. Private-sector casino resorts in Metro Manila include Okada Manila, City of Dreams Manila, Solaire Resort and Casino, and Resorts World Manila.

The virus propagation comes in a moment of progress for Philippines gaming sector, with increasing 2020 numbers (compared to Q1 2019) for gross gaming revenues (GGR) from casinos, online gaming sites and traditional bingo. However, after Coronavirus, PAGCOR Chairwoman and CEO, Andrea Domingo, expressed that, during March 2020, GGR has been plunging by around 30 to 40 percent in relation to February. This might reduce expectations for the full year. Recently, PAGCOR had calculated the industry’s revenues to grow by 11 percent from PHP260 billion (US$5.09 billion) in 2019 to PHP290 billion (over US$5.68 billion) in 2020.

Before The Philippines, Macau had ordered the closure of the city’s casinos for a 15-day period in February, and such venues are now operating at a reduced capacity due to restrictions imposed by the local government. Of course, the shutdown of gaming rooms is a measure that has been implemented in several jurisdictions across the globe. In Latin America, which is going through the summer season, the spread of COVID-19 is increasing little by little. For this reason, Argentina has already made determinations in this regard. Yesterday, the governor of the province of Buenos Aires, Axel Kicillof, ordered the closure of all casinos and bingos. The situation is similar for other provinces in that country. While in the capital, the City of Buenos Aires, a decree communicated by the Buenos Aires Minister of Health, Fernan Quiros, indicated the obligation to restrict attendance to gaming rooms to a maximum of 200 people at the Argentine Hippodrome in Palermo and the Puerto Madero casinos. In any case, Quiros himself indicated that, in the next few days, the total closure of gaming in the City will be ordered to avoid new infections of the virus. Other countries in the Latin American region, such as Uruguay, Costa Rica, Panama and Paraguay, have also closed access to gaming rooms.

While, with some delay, Spain is one of the last European countries that decided to join the current preventive trend in that continent. Loterias y Apuestas del Estado announced the suspension of all draws, while the National Government did the same with gaming establishments and betting shops.

Finally, concerns related to the spread of COVID-19 have also arrived to the United States. Casino operations in four states (Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York) have been suspended through the end of March, while Las Vegas is in temporary lockdown, as the casino resorts there closed for the remainder of the coronavirus emergency.