Expanded Air Service Bolsters Revenue Wave for Manila Casinos

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In a move that holds high promise for Manila’s casinos, the Philippines and South Korean governments have decided to enhance the weekly air service between their capital cities. As a result of this development, increasing footfall from Korea is anticipated to bring a wave of revenue to Manila’s flourishing casinos.

Aviation authorities from these bustling Asian countries etched their signatures on a memorandum of understanding last week. This vital agreement paves the way to boost weekly seat capacity from 20,000 to 30,000 seats each way. This change will take place between the Manila Ninoy Aquino International and Seoul Incheon International, both of which claim to be among the most populated capital metropolises globally.

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The teeming Manila metro is home to around 13 million individuals, whereas Seoul welcomes a staggering 25.5 million residents. Both Manila and Incheon are renowned for their burgeoning commercial casino markets. However, there is a catch – while casinos at Manila’s Entertainment City such as Okada, City of Dreams, Solaire, and Newport Resorts World are open to both domestic and overseas guests, Incheon International’s casinos are strictly reserved for foreigners.

The gaming industry in the Philippines is witnessing a surge, even in these post-COVID-19 times. The Southeast Asian nation’s robust growth is mainly due to the pent-up demand that snowballed during the pandemic and China’s crackdown on junket groups, which had previously played a crucial role in keeping Macau’s VIP high roller rooms occupied for many decades.

These groups, which once primarily served mainland China’s elite, are now shifting their focus to regions with a more favorable operating climate, like the Philippines. A few have also spread their wings to other affluent Asian countries where gambling is either outlawed or strictly regulated, such as South Korea.

According to the Philippines Department of Tourism, South Korea has been instrumental in leading the foreign visitors’ stream to this archipelagic nation this year. Nearly 793K Koreans, which translates to approximately 28% of the country’s total foreign visitation, have reportedly descended on the Philippines from January to June.

Analysts reveal that a significant number of visiting Koreans choose to reside and enjoy the exceptional hospitality at Entertainment City’s resorts, as they offer a superior experience compared to Kangwon Land – the only remote casino resort in South Korea where Koreans can legally gamble.

The escalated capacity is expected to make a tangible impact on the market as soon as airlines seize the opportunity to ferry increased passenger traffic between these two countries’ capital cities. Incheon was tagged last year as the 20th busiest airport with a passenger count of over 56.2 million, closely tailing Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International. Incheon’s airport complex is home to numerous casino resorts, with Mohegan Inspire, a $1.6 billion integrated resort, being the newest addition.

Since 2017, the Philippines and South Korean governments have maintained a quota of 20K weekly passengers flying between their capital airports. The dramatic rise in demand beyond this limit couple with the world’s emergence from the pandemic has led authorities to reconsider the cap. Now, there are no airline seat limits between their other airports.

The Philippines’ government attributes the increased tourism influx from South Korea as a significant driver of the nation’s economy, with its commercial casinos reaping the rewards as well. The country’s gross gaming revenue (GGR) this year is expected to soar to a record $6.1 billion, an impressive escalation from 2021’s $5.1 billion GGR by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation operated casinos.

Looking ahead, the state-run PAGCOR plans to offload its government-owned casinos and instead adopt a regulatory-only role in the coming years.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.