PHILIPPINE Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) said net profit in the first quarter declined 80% from a year earlier to P152.62 million after casinos and other gaming operations dealt with further disruptions resulting from the new wave of lockdowns.

Gross income from gaming operations fell 54% to P8.363 billion.

The government-owned and -controlled corporation, which is required by law to remit 50% of its profits to the National Government, remitted P3.96 billion to the Treasury. The dividend paid to the government was roughly half of the P8.2 billion it remitted a year earlier.

Excluding gaming taxes and its contributions to the National Government, net gaming revenue was P4.535 billion, down 48.9% from a year earlier.

Expenses fell 13.75% year on year to P4.383 billion in the three months to March.

PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Andrea D. Domingo, at a forum Tuesday, attributed the performance to the continuing restrictions, with casinos and other gaming establishments forced to limit their operations or shut down entirely.

Ms. Domingo projected that profits from gaming operations could plummet to P16-17 billion this year from a high of P80 billion in 2019 and P30 billion in 2020, if the coronavirus case count remains high and restrictions persist.

“We’re trying to keep afloat. I think if GCQ (general community quarantine) is declared in the next two weeks in Manila, we might be able to recoup some of our losses,” she said.

The 26 PAGCOR-owned casinos, along with 830 e-bingo and e-games establishments in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, stopped operating completely when the enhanced community quarantine was enforced in those parts of the country, she said.

The earnings decline is expected to reduce PAGCOR’s capacity to contribute to the Universal Health Care program and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. She said PAGCOR expects funds available for health to drop to P5 billion this year from P8 billion in 2020 and P18 billion in 2019.

Meanwhile, Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) were also severely disrupted by lockdowns, forcing 33 out of 63 licensees and more than 200 service providers to shut down.

She estimated that the sector could generate less than half of the P8-9 billion average annual gaming revenue from POGOs this year.

“We have to really open up a little bit, we have to operate at least at 50% capacity so that we don’t lose the market altogether and we save the manpower that we have and we’d still be able to contribute significantly to the national Treasury and to the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) for the franchise taxes,” Ms. Domingo said. — Beatrice M. Laforga