While the worldwide coronavirus pandemic is shutting down everything from schools and restaurants to airlines and national borders, one thing that the Chinese disease cannot seem to derail is the popularity and demand for gambling.
In the Philippines, residents usually have the ability to gamble at casinos, resort-casinos, bodegas, lottery windows, bingo halls, and more. However, because Filipinos are strictly limited to in-person domestic gaming, they currently lack those options. This is due to the recent Metro Manila quarantine, which encompasses 16 Philippine cities.
As part of that lockdown, PAGCOR – the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation – has closed all brick-and-mortar gambling outlets. PAGCOR’s official statement on the matter reads as follows (via Facebook):
“PAGCOR believes in the seriousness of the [Wuhan coronavirus] situation. Hence, it supports the government’s extreme effort in containing the virus. For its part, the state-run gaming agency has decided to prohibit public gatherings in its gaming venues and in the licensed gaming properties that it regulates.”
Nevertheless, POGOs – or Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators – are still up and running, but these outlets are only accessible by non-native users. Philippine players do not have legal local access to online sports betting or casino gambling services of any kind.
The Manila quarantine – and thus, all summary gambling cessation – is slated to last until at least April 14, though that date is tentative and could be extended indefinitely, depending on the spread of the virus.
In the grand scheme of the Wuhan coronavirus impact, this isn’t a big deal. But quarantine – even for those who aren’t infected with the flu-like illness – can be a serious psychological and physical burden.
For gamblers and sports bettors, then, it’s important that their entertaining daily activities are not hindered if they don’t have to be.
That’s where legal offshore sportsbooks come in.
Online sportsbooks like BetOnline, MyBookie, 5Dimes, and others all offer Philippine members robust international betting lines on players and leagues from all over the world.
Of course, betting on sports right now is a bit of a problem, since there have been mass cancellations and suspensions of sporting events in nearly every league on the planet.
The NBA – perhaps the Philippines’ most popular betting market, is on hiatus due to COVID-19, and the 2020 PBA season has been paused as well. There are still a few sporting markets available at the time of this writing, but those are waning every day. It seems that eSports betting may be the last bastion for bettors in the near future, and that’s a difficult market to learn for traditional punters.
Though these types of games may not be the first choice for avid sports bettors, casino access will remain available for the duration of any coronavirus-related quarantines or outages. That, at least, is a bit of silver lining.
For anyone questioning the legality of these sites, they are safe and legal to use because the Philippine government has no rules barring access to and participation at offshore sportsbooks and online casinos. These outlets operate outside the jurisdiction of the Philippines, and they are a viable alternative to local retail betting and gambling.
Hopefully, the Manila quarantine will be lifted soon and life will return to normal for everyone, with sports leagues picking right back up where they left off.
But in the meantime, if you have a betting itch that needs to be scratched, you can rest easy knowing that access is available anywhere you have a computer or mobile device and an Internet connection.
Going forward, using the lessons learned from the Chinese coronavirus lockdown of Metro Manila and other regions in the islands, the Philippine government will perhaps warm to the idea of opening up POGOs and domestic online gambling options to its citizens.
If nothing else, COVID-19 offers a positive diagnosis for the pragmatism and utility of online industries like sports betting and gambling.
And naturally, if the government allowed its people access to these sites, the tax benefits could go a long way towards helping the island nation recover quickly from the next international or local health crisis, whenever one may rear its ugly head.