The new head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) has announced a freeze on the issuance of new online gaming licences, reported local media outlet the Manila Bulletin.
Pagcor is an operator of publicly owned casinos in the Philippines as well as the regulator for the country’s entire gaming industry, which includes privately developed casinos and gaming parlours.
“For now, we will freeze the issuance of licences for these types of games, and then review what the President said,” Andrea Domingo, the new chairwoman of Pagcor, stated in a radio interview, quoted by the Manila Bulletin.
The Philippines’ new President, Rodrigo Duterte, said during his first cabinet meeting last week that he planned to stop the proliferation of online gambling in the country and revoke existing licences.
President Duterte and his team have not yet provided further details on such plans, namely which firms or types of games would be impacted by a potential ban on online gaming in the Philippines.
Data quoted by the Manila Bulletin showed that the number of gaming machines enabled for online play soared during the administration of the previous president, Benigno Aquino. According to the media outlet, the number of e-bingo machines rose from 2,160 in June 2010 to about 12,000 currently; the number of e-games cafés jumped to 277 from 190.
Online gambling is legal all across the Philippines and is said to be very popular. There are also several gaming jurisdictions in the country authorised to issue online gaming licences; but such licences are issued on the basis that the gambling services are only accessible to players overseas, not to domestic ones.
The possibility of a ban on online gambling could have a negative impact on domestic online gaming operators such as Philippines-based PhilWeb Corp. The firm’s shares dropped by 22 percent on Friday, following the announcement by President Duterte; on Sunday the company voluntarily suspended trading of its shares on the Philippine Stock Exchange with effect until Wednesday inclusive. On Tuesday, the firm requested the trading suspension to be extended until Friday inclusive: PhilWeb’s management is scheduled to meet with the board of directors of Pagcor on that day.
“In view of unverified material information affecting the business of PhilWeb that will materially affect the investing public, we hereby request for a trading suspension in PhilWeb shares,” the firm stated in its original trading suspension request. The document did not provide details on the “unverified material information”.
PhilWeb in 2003 received a licence from Pagcor to launch a network of e-games outlets – featuring digital casino games, including versions of popular live table games such as baccarat and blackjack, and various slot machine titles – in the Philippines. The firm’s network at the end of 2015 included a total of 268 operational e-games outlets all over the Philippines, with more than 8,800 gaming terminals, indicates information from PhilWeb.
According to media reports, PhilWeb’s current contract with Pagcor is expected to expire on July 11, 2016.
(Updated at 9.40am, July 6)
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