State-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) warned that funding for the universal health care (UHC) would take a major blow this year as casino operations continue to grapple with the rising cost of the pandemic.
During the virtual Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday, April 28, Andrea D. Domingo, Pagcor chair and chief executive said the gaming firm’s contribution to UHC will likely dwindle to below P5 billion this year from a pre-pandemic level of P18 billion.
She disclosed that Pagcor’s UHC remittance was slashed by more than half last year to P8 billion.
“We’re trying to keep afloat,” Domingo said, citing that Pagcor’s gross gaming revenues plunged to P30 billion last year from P80 billion in 2019 due to quarantine measures that pushed the closure of casinos.
In 2021, gaming operations in Metro Manila have been suspended anew following the country’s worst coronavirus surge in March.
Domingo said the quarantine rule preventing gatherings of more than 10 people forced 26 state-owned casinos in Metro Manila and nearly provinces to close shop, which took a huge toll on Pagcor’s income.
The government’s gaming regulator and operator expects revenues from gambling would reach only around P16 billion to 17 billion this year.
“Pagcor is actually losing P15 million a day… which will affect the government’s healthcare services,” Domingo said. “If we were not hit by the pandemic, our estimate was that we could have contributed P25 billion to UHC last year.”
Republic Act No.1223 mandates half of government’s income from Pagcor allocated for UHC.
On Tuesday, the Bureau of the Treasury reported that the government’s lower revenues from its share in Pagcor’s income contributed to the widening budget deficit in the first three-months of 2021.
Pagcor remitted only P4.9 billion to the government coffers in January to March, down by 48 percent from P9.46 billion in the same period last year, data from the treasury showed.
Domingo, however, said that Pagcor may still recoup its losses in the first-quarter should the government loosen quarantine restrictions and local governments allow the gaming industry to reopen.