The Philippine casino regulator is investigating a media report claiming that at least three casinos in the country were used as part of a money laundering scheme. As much as US$100 million of illicit funds may have been laundered through the scheme.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, also known as Pagcor, “expects the casinos to submit their comments on the allegation as an initial step in the investigation within this week,” the regulator said in a statement, quoted by several Philippine media outlets.
“As a matter of regulation, Pagcor requires casinos to employ strict internal control policies on funds movements and issuances of playing chips. In addition, casinos implement ‘know your customer’ protocols particularly with regard to high value patrons,” the statement added.
Financial authorities in the Philippines are probing the alleged money laundering case, according to media reports.
The money laundering allegations have led the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission chair, Teresita Herbosa, to call for the inclusion of casinos in the list of institutions required to report suspicious transactions.
“It is worth noting that all bank remittances into casino bank accounts regardless of [the] amount are subjected to scrutiny as to the identity of the remitting party and the purpose of the remittance,” Pagcor said in its statement.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper earlier this week reported that funds allegedly stolen by hackers from a bank overseas had been directed to a bank in the Philippines.
The money was then consolidated into a single corporate account of an alleged Chinese-Filipino junket operator. It was after reportedly used – on behalf of a Macau-based client – either to buy chips or pay for casino losses incurred at Solaire Resort and Casino, City of Dreams Manila and Midas Hotel and Casino, Inquirer sources said. The funds were then moved on to bank accounts overseas, the report added.
There was no suggestion in the report that the casinos named were in any way complicit with any illicit fund movement.
Asian casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd operates City of Dreams Manila – the property began operations in December. Philippines casino developer Bloomberry Resorts Corp built and manages Solaire Resort and Casino in Manila, which opened in March 2013.
Both properties are located at Entertainment City in Manila. The area is home to a new cluster of private sector casino resorts licensed by Pagcor.
Leisure and Resorts World Corp, an investor – via a subsidiary – in the City of Dreams Manila casino resort, majority owns Midas Hotel and Casino in Pasay, Manila. The firm said in a filing in November that Pagcor ran the property’s casino – Pagcor accumulates the role of regulator of the Philippine casino industry with that of public operator of some casino facilities around the country. However, a subsidiary from Leisure and Resorts World has an agreement with Pagcor to “jointly conduct junket gaming operations” within the property, the filing stated.
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”There are likely to be cancellations of some Chinese New Year casino and junket parties and events [in Macau]”
Vitaly Umansky, Eunice Lee and Kelsey Zhu
Sanford Bernstein analysts