Interview: Andrea Domingo

How can the Philippines distinguish its entertainment and tourism offering in the region?

ANDREA DOMINGO: Here in the Philippines, we have all the amenities, auxiliary services and facilities of an advanced economy on the budget of an emerging one. Additionally, the country benefits from a very civilised way of life. The Filipino people are well educated and open-minded, and as such we are able to integrate well with people from other countries. Another very key point to mention is that our present government has fostered peace, order and security for all travellers and for our nationals as well. This opens up great opportunities in regions that were previously underdeveloped and visited less frequently. Our economy still has great potential to attract investments and further our progress.

Do you foresee online gaming taking precedence over brick-and-mortar casinos in the long term?

DOMINGO: We would like a healthy balance between the two. It would be unfair to those integrated resorts (IRs) – which we made invest millions or billions of dollars to start operations – if we were to favour online casinos. All IRs are mandated to have 7.5% of their floor space designated for casinos, with the rest of their floor area dedicated to the promotion of tourism, entertainment, recreation, the food and beverage industry, and the arts. We would like to maintain this ratio because we want to remain attractive to developers. The country would benefit more from brick-and-mortar establishments because they generate employment, tourism arrivals and other related services. However, online gaming, or offshore gaming, is a growing trend. It could generate between P6bn ($118.5m) and P9bn ($177.8m) in revenues because we have instituted a better audit system that can track how much money goes in and out via the internet. As a result, we are able to fight illegal online gaming and money laundering.

In what ways has gaming regulation improved?

DOMINGO: For one, the licensing process has been fees and other requirements have been formalised and posted on our website, and we have eliminated bureaucratic red tape. Our management team is also to those with legitimate issues and complaints. In addition, we have regulatory and safety manuals in place. We are very serious about implementing the amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, which now covers casino operations, and we have created a department to monitor and assess the implementation of this law.

We are also ISO 9001 certified for all corporate management systems as well as one casino, which is one of only two casinos with such a certification in the world. We are now preparing to have four of our biggest casinos certified as well.

What regions have the most return on investment

DOMINGO: Cebu City and Mactan Island already have casinos, Davao has one and there are six casinos in Clark. The investments in these casinos total around $200m-500m each. Two casino investors are also interested in Boracay. It is easy to promote of visitors, but some areas may prove difficult due Although we want to promote the gaming industry, we do not want it to proliferate everywhere. As such, President Rodrigo Duterte issued a freeze order on IRs in February 2017 as there were already 15-17 slot machine-to-resident ratios in certain areas. Currently, some areas are oversaturated, while others are untouched. Casino investors can still apply to develop if they have conducted feasibility studies.