Philippines allows online bets for casino as Covid-19 cases almost hitting 394,000

Members of the Democrats Abroad Philippines holding slogans as they gathered at the Makati Suburbs in Manila Philippines while continuing to monitor developments in the US election. - AP

MANILA, Nov 7 (Bloomberg): The Philippines has allowed a land-based casino to accept bets online and is reviewing two other requests in a move that could help operators mitigate losses from the Covid-19 pandemic. Gaming stocks rose.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. has approved the application of Bloomberry Resorts Corp.’s Solaire Resort and Casino, president Alfredo Lim said in mobile-phone messages.

Solaire’s system will still undergo testing by the regulator, the agency clarified in a subsequent statement. City of Dreams Manila and Okada Manila have also filed their applications, which are now under evaluation, the regulator said.

Shares of Bloomberry rose 4.2% on Nov. 3, its biggest gain in more than a month and outpacing the Philippine benchmark stock index’s 0.2% advance. Premium Leisure Corp, which earns from City of Dreams Manila, jumped as much as 6.3% before closing up 3.1%.

The gaming regulator’s decision will help Manila’s integrated casino resorts "survive and get through the pandemic until they are allowed by government to fully operate,” said Richard Laneda, an analyst at COL Financial Group Inc.

"This is a way for them to earn some revenue.”

Philippine gross gaming revenue fell 96% in the second quarter as casinos shut to stem the spread of the coronavirus, with operators like Bloomberry posting losses.

The gaming regulator has been pushing to gradually reopen casinos after they were shut in March. Online casinos that only serve offshore markets and catering mostly to Chinese clients have also been hit by restrictions and a new tax on bets.

Meanwhile, the Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday reported 2,157 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection, bringing the total number in the country to 393,961, reports Xinhua.

The DOH said 252 more patients recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 350,216.

The death toll climbed to 7,485 after 24 more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH added.

As the holiday season nears, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a televised briefing that the DOH is discouraging public karaoke or videoke sessions due to fear of infection.

Citing reports that singing unmasked indoor can spread the coronavirus, she said the DOH will not recommend reopening of karaoke bars for now. However, she said that families can still enjoy the activity inside their homes.

The Philippines is also studying whether or not to ban Christmas carolling, a tradition where Filipinos hop from house to house to serenade the neighbours for some cash or sweets, due to fear of community transmission.

The government has earlier decided to ban Christmas parties in the Philippines due to fear of infection.
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