The Philippine Senate will tackle what it considers priority bills once it resumes work in the middle of January, said Senate president Aquilino Pimentel as quoted by the Manila Times newspaper. Among those are bills that would add casinos to the list of bodies covered by that nation’s Anti-Money Laundering Act, said Mr Pimentel.
The amendments soon to be discussed at the Senate propose to include casinos – namely land-based, Internet and ship-based casinos – to the list of bodies that are required to report suspicious transactions. One of the bills – submitted on November 29 by a group of senators – also suggests the inclusion of “chipwashing and junket operators”, defined as “any person who brings a person, a group of persons, or junket players in the casino premises to participate in the gaming operations”.
The bill would require casinos and junket operators to report to the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) what were referred to as “covered” – as well as suspicious – transactions. A covered transaction is defined in the bill as a transaction in cash or other equivalent monetary instrument exceeding PHP500,000 (US$10,000).
In Macau, the reporting threshold for casino transactions is MOP500,000 (US$62,568). The U.S. Department of State regularly urges Macau to reduce the threshold set for casinos to report “large” transactions to the equivalent of US$3,000 “to bring it in line with international standards”.
The bills to be discussed by the Philippine Senate also provide for stricter customer identification requirements and record keeping systems.
The inclusion of casinos in the Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Act is one of the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – a global body responsible for bolstering the fight against worldwide money laundering – in order to avoid the potential blacklisting of that country. In February 2013, the Paris-based FATF had already mentioned specifically the risks associated with the exemption of casinos from that law.
The Philippines casino industry came under renewed international scrutiny – regarding anti-money laundering controls – when news broke in March that hackers allegedly stole US$81 million from Bangladesh central bank accounts held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
According to testimony – attributed by local media to the AMLC and given at a Philippines Senate hearing in March – of the US$81 million in stolen funds, US$63 million allegedly found its way into the Philippines’ casino sector. There the money mostly vanished in exchange for gaming chips, it was said during the hearings.
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Gaming industry’s aggregate contribution to Macau's economy in 2018