In-depth: ASEAN Pop-Up Forum

By Louis Thompsett

At the 2022 ASEAN Gaming Summit Pop-up Forum, operators in the Philippines online gaming market – Calvin Lim, President & CEO, DFNN, Brian Ng, President, Philweb and Joe Pisano, CEO, Jade Entertainment – discuss the role of the Philippines Inland Gaming Operator scheme (PIGOS), its impact on the Filipino gaming market and their businesses.  

Moderator: As the first movers into the regulated online gaming market in the Philippines, how have your products and services been evolving under PIGOS? 

Calvin Lim: DFNN owns a licence through a subsidiary. What the licence allows us to do is offer content and platform services to the electronic casino segment of the market. Covid-19 accelerated the need for digitalisation; gaming casinos were considered non-essential, so there was no income. The regulators came up with an industry-saving, job-saving strategy, to implement RGP – which stands for the remote gaming platform. 

But implementing this was no small feat; it takes time. In an ever-changing, ever-evolving environment, it’s been a tough two years, so it's great it was brought in.

Brian Ng: I’d like to echo what Calvin has said. Industry saving is a good way of putting it [PIGOS]. We began these discussions with PAGCOR two or three months into the lockdown. This is primarily because our venue-based operations were looking for means to earn some revenue. But, at the same time, there was a strong proliferation of illegal gaming sites. What happened immediately after Covid in the Philippines is online operators started targeting the Philippines through local agents, and loads of illegal cockfighting was being done online. There was a real demand to try and address this. In a way, it was a perfect storm. 

Before March 2020, any discussion with PAGCOR on gaming online or outside of venues, no was the automatic answer. Then the Government, venue providers, etc. needed revenue. I think the reason why Calvin moved into the online space is that our venue-based casinos were built on internet computer software. So, it has been faster for us to re-tool our system. 

Since late 2020, market share is up for grabs, as it’s a new industry. It links to the rise of illegal online betting, which has helped grow the market Calvin Lim, President & CEO, DFNN

Joe Pisano: We had a slightly different offering. We started in retail sportsbook and we started a casino in Manila and a few online gaming sites. When we were hit with Covid restrictions we applied for the remote gaming platform licence. For us, it’s a business continuity plan for the outlets that we service. We’ve got to understand that it’s not online gaming, even though it’s online. It’s remote gaming, as you need to be tagged to a land-based property.

When a customer comes onto your site, they must be tagged to an outlet or a casino. So, it's an extension of the casino floor essentially, just online. It’s been good for the properties, now that we’re moving back to 100% occupancy. We’ve not seen remote gaming diminish and we’ve seen a land-based increase. So, it’s a good marketing plan to get the product out to the market. People can play on the floor and at home. 

How has PIGOS been performing from a revenue perspective?  

Joe Pisano: Yes, revenue continues to grow. We take care of sports betting, while Brian and Calvin are more in the online space. We do work with outlets, placing our sportsbooks in their properties. We work with casinos too and provide our sportsbook into those properties. We have a lot of interest with sportsbook companies wanting property on the floor. 

Calvin Lim: I echo what Joe is saying, it's on an upward trend. Since late 2020, market share is up for grabs, as it’s a new injury. It links to the rise of illegal online betting, which has helped grow the market. Touching on the relationship, I think the market is huge; because, does the market just includes the regulated side? Does that include both the onshore regulator and the online website that is not regulated, or outside of the Philippines? 

So, touching base on that in a way can be a complex relationship, which transcends borders and is internet related. 

Brian Ng: Looking at it differently, the remote gaming platform has allowed us to extend our reach to an underserved segment of the market. Venues build on what is in their proximity.

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