The name of the Philippine casino regulator might be changed from Pagcor to “Paga” under a major shake-up of the organisation that would also see it relinquish the role of running some casinos.
The move has been mooted by Pantaleon Alvarez, speaker in the House of Representatives (pictured) in the Philippine Congress.
According to proposals in House Bill 6514, which bears the name of Mr Alvarez and that of House deputy majority leader Juan Pablo Bondoc, the regulator would cease to be an operator of some casinos, and change its name from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp – known as Pagcor – to that of the “Philippine Amusements and Gaming Authority” – to be known by the acronym “Paga”.
Speaker Alvarez’s bill also proposes that regulation of all games of chance that have been authorised by certain special economic zones – a system currently including some offshore-aimed online gaming services licensed via the Cagayan Special Economic Zone – should be “centralised” and “consolidated” under the new regulator “for the purposes of efficiency”.
The 24-page bill said it was “crucial” in the wake of the Philippine casino sector’s expansion, that a national regulatory body “strengthen and advance” its work.
Nationally the sector reported gross gaming revenue (GGR) of PHP39.15 billion (US$759.4 million) in the second quarter of 2017, up by 14.5 percent from the prior-year period.
Since Pagcor was currently “both an operator of casinos and regulator of the same, there is a lingering doubt as to its ability to effectively enforce its regulatory powers,” stated the preface to the bill.
“Hence for the purpose of effective regulation, this legislation proposes to change the character of Pagcor from an operator and a regulator to a purely regulatory body,” the document added.
At present, Pagcor directly operates a suite of state-run casinos and oversees a number of private-sector ones. Its own brand of casinos is called “Casino Filipino”. According to the latter’s website, the brand operates venues in eight locations across the country, and has a further 34 so-called “satellite” sites across the Philippines.
The Philippine Department of Finance announced in August last year a plan to strip Pagcor of the right to operate casinos.
In September this year, Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III stated the government expected to sell 17 casinos currently operated by Pagcor in a first round of disposals due to begin in 2018.
Later that month, Enrique Razon, chairman of Philippines-based casino operator Bloomberry Resorts Corp – which runs Solaire Resort and Casino in Manila and is planning a new property in nearby Quezon City – expressed interest in acquiring some of the casino operations of Pagcor.
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”We need to have stability – especially in terms of legislation, so that it doesn’t change very often. We have several discussions with the authorities and they understand that stability is a must for the development of this industry”
COO for Russian operations at casino investor Summit Ascent