[MANILA] The Philippines' largest operator of electronic bingo games has become the latest victim of President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign to eradicate online gambling.
Shares of Leisure & Resorts World Corp plunged 20 per cent, the most in almost eight years, as of 12.05 pm in Manila after the nation's gaming regulator said it won't issue new permits or renew expiring licenses for electronic platforms of the numbers game. Leisure & Resorts President Reynaldo Bantug was in a meeting and not available for comment, according to his staff.
Online bingo is the most popular form of electronic gambling in the Philippines, making up three-quarters of Internet gaming revenue in the first half, data from Philippine Amusement & Gaming show. Duterte, who took office June 30, has vowed to "destroy" online gambling in a campaign that's already claimed the scalp of the chairman of PhilWeb Corp, a gaming technology provider.
"One can take these changes as the government overhauling and realigning the industry into something that is more controlled and regulated by weeding out the small gaming companies," said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at Manila-based BDO Unibank Inc., the nation's biggest lender. "But over the short term, these changes will be taken negatively as markets by nature don't like disruptions."
Leisure & Resorts controls 35 percent of the Philippines' bingo market, with 8,585 e-bingo machines installed across the archipelago as well as more than 100 bingo halls. The numbers game accounted for 9.62 billion pesos (S$278.7 million) of revenue in the first half, out of a total of 12.69 billion pesos for all electronic gaming income, according to figures from Philippine Amusement & Gaming, the regulator that's known as Pagcor.
"We will not issue new licenses and we will not renew expired licenses in both e-bingo and e-games," Pagcor Chairman Andrea Domingo said on Friday in mobile-phone message.
Pagcor decided not to renew PhilWeb's license to supply it with electronic games last week and on Thursday rejected an offer by the company's former chairman, Roberto Ongpin, to give 49 per cent of PhilWeb to state-owned Pagcor, which is a gaming company as well as being the industry regulator.
PhilWeb's shares plummeted 33 per cent on Friday and are down 65 per cent in the past month. Mr Ongpin quit as chairman earlier this month after Mr Duterte said the billionaire was among businessmen that have an undue influence on the government.