In order to raise money to support the P3.4-trillion national budget for 2017, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.’s (PAGCOR) casinos will be sold by the government.

PAGCOR chairperson and one-time Pampanga congresswoman, Andrea Domingo told a House budget hearing, “Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has told us to privatize Pagcor-owned casinos,” and, “We are now preparing the template for the planned privatization so we could maximize the benefits for the government,” according to local sources.

Gaming analyst Rommel Rodrigo with Maybank ATR Kim Eng said that the sale and privatization of casinos is a good move by PAGCOR as it will do away with potential conflicts of interest. Rodrigo has said, “The government will get the highest value if these casinos are sold as one rather than if the assets are sold separately. Bundled as one, these casinos will give buyers a massive advantage,” according to Bloomberg.

While no mention was made by Domingo regarding just how much the sale of the PAGCOR-run casinos would be earned by the government, she did give the Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles-chaired appropriations committee some idea of just how much the country’s gaming regulator is earning from its casinos. Domingo said that half or P23 billion (US$495,695,080) of the P46 billion (US$991,390,160) PAGCOR earned in 2015 was derived from its gaming operations, while the other half came from licenses, according to The Philippine Star.

Domingo admitted that the sale of the state-run casinos would only bring the treasury one-time revenue versus the billions earned annually from their operation. The revenue loss is yet another budget-gap for PAGCOR, after the gaming regulator announced earlier this month it would not be renewing its contract with Philweb Corp., which equates to a P10 billion annual revenue loss. The company is owned by Roberto Ongpin, and had an exclusive license to operate both e-games and e-bingo across some 300 cafes.

In an effort to offset the losses, last week PAGCOR confirmed that soon it will be offering online gambling licenses to overseas punters only. While just how many of these licenses would be issued by PAGCOR was not mentioned by Domingo, she did say that initially they would be issued for a period of six months. Domingo also said that she plans to issue the licenses beyond the capital. In an interview, she said, “It’s 100 percent money. This is going to augment our revenue without breaking any of the pronouncements of the president not to have Filipinos get into the gaming habit,” according to the news agency.

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