The Union for National Development and Good Governance-Philippines (UNLAD-Philippines) filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court on November 7 against the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) stating that PAGCOR did not have the authority to issue offshore gaming licenses and was violating constitutional regulations.

UNLAD, which is a non-government organization, went on to state that as per the Presidential Decree 1869, PAGCOR was not authorized to regulate or operate online gambling that catered to foreign players who were living outside the Philippines. The lawsuit also alleged that PAGCOR was expanding and abusing its power and had not received approval from Congress.

The issuance of offshore gaming licenses is a new measure that PAGCOR has introduced this year in order to develop a new stream of revenue after the regulator decided not to renew the e-gaming licenses of PhilWeb Corp, which operated 286 e-gaming parlors in the country. PAGCOR is charging $40,000 for an online sports betting license and $50,000 for an online casino license.

The 18 page petition from UNLAD stated that “The rules on offshore gaming approved and currently implemented by Pagcor [are] null and void on the ground that Pagcor is patently without jurisdiction, legislative franchise, authority or power to issue licenses for the opening, establishment, operation, regulation, control and management on [online] gambling as defined under the Rules on Offshore Gaming.”

PAGCOR responded to the lawsuit and allegations made by UNLAD by releasing a statement on November 9. PAGCOR refuted the claims that it did not have the authority to oversee online gambling to overseas players and stated that it was well within its rights to license, authorize and operate all games of cards, chance and numbers in the Philippines. Although these online gambling operators would offer services to overseas players, PAGCOR still had the authority to oversee the industry since they operated from within the Philippines.

PAGCOR lashed out at the NGO and asked for clarification stating that if it did not have the authority to regulate online gambling in the Philippines, then who should be in charge? The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority has authority only over the economic zone that it is responsible for and not the entire country.  PAGCOR also went on to say that the new initiative to issue online gaming licenses had already generated $18.7 million in licensing and application processing fees and these funds will be utilized to assist the government with its development objectives for the country.

PAGCOR currently serves as a regulator and also as a gaming operator running 11 casinos under the Casino Filipino brand. PAGCOR is in the process of relinquishing its responsibilities as an operator and only being a regulator before the end of the third quarter in 2017.