It is the opinion of the Philippine Department of Finance (DOF) that the country’s gaming regulator, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), should operate only in a regulatory capacity and allow the business aspects to be controlled by the private sector, according to the Manilla Bulletin.
A proposal is being considered by the country’s DOF that would take away PAGCOR’s right to operate in the commercial market, as it currently operates its own casinos and several VIP slot clubs across the Philippines. If that happens, it would leave the government-owned and controlled firm with its core function as an overseer and regulator of both privately and publicly owned casinos.
Recently appointed by the country’s 16th President Rodrigo Duterte, who was sworn in in July, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III recently told reporters, “We believe that government should only be in regulatory functions and not in commercial functions and therefore [should] dispose of – by sale or closing down – the commercial functions,” as quoted by the news outlet.
Released earlier this month, PAGCOR’s second-quarter data indicates that during that period the firm’s own casinos operated approximately one-third of all table games and close to six of every 10 electronic gaming machines (EGM’s) in the Philippines, according to GGRAsia. And at its own casino venues branded “Casino Filipino,” PAGCOR operated 10,603 EGMs and 608 gaming tables. During that same period, according to the news agency, 10 casinos in the private sector operating a combined 7,205 EGMs and 1,280 gaming tables, were regulated by the agency. GGRAsia says that they have been told by a number of gaming industry lawyers that PAGCOR’s dual role as both operator and regulator “has the potential for conflicts of interest regarding regulatory policy.”
In June 2007, Republic Act 9487 gave PAGCOR an additional 25 years to issue licenses, regulate and operate games of chance, and to enter into investment, management, or joint venture agreements with private entities in both Newport City, Pasay and Entertainment City located in the Manila Bay area. At that time PAGCOR operated under the leadership of Chairman Efraim Genuino, who along with several other former government officials were charged with two counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, among other charges, in June this year.
In keeping with President Duterte’s vow to stop the proliferation of online gambling in the Philippines, just since his swearing in, he has directed Andrea Domingo, PAGCOR’s recently elected CEO, to strictly implement Presidential Decree No. 1067-B, which bans all government officials and members of the Philippine Armed Forces and Philippine National Police, from both playing and staying in casino; revoked 124 online gaming licenses; and on August 9, announced that e-gaming operator PhilWeb’s license would not be renewed. PhilWeb operates 286 e-gaming outlets across the country, and to date has paid PAGCOR approximately PHP14 billion, $297.9 million USD.
Last week it was reported that Domingo would recommend that the last ditch effort to save PhilWeb’s operations by the company’s controlling stakeholder Roberto Ongpin, be rejected.