The Philippine government should “privatise” some business of the country’s casino regulator-cum-operator to raise as much as PHP300 billion (US$5.7 billion) annually, and do so as an alternative to so-called “sin taxes” on consumer items such as alcohol and eCigarettes.
So said Philippine Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday, in comments reported by multiple media outlets.
The accounts said that the country’s Department of Finance had agreed to look again at such a possibility in relation to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, a body also known as Pagcor.
In November 2017 the Philippine government was said to be considering a special body to oversee privatisation of some casinos currently operated by the country’s gaming regulator, according to comments at the time attributed to Carlos Dominguez, the country’s Secretary of Finance.
Pagcor operates state-owned casinos under the “Casino Filipino” umbrella, and also licences and regulates private-sector venues.
In July this year a Philippine public spending watchdog urged Pagcor to close down one of the public-sector casinos – Casino Filipino Manila Bay – due to what the watchdog said was an accumulated PHP2.1-billion net loss over five years up to the end of 2018. Pagcor subsequently disputed the watchdog’s claim.
Wednesday’s media reports on revisiting the “privatisation” of Pagcor didn’t refer specifically to the Casino Filipino brand. According to the Casino Filipino website, there is a chain of venues under that name, as well as a number of venues described either as “tie ups” or “satellites”.
Senator Drilon was said to have raised the privatisation issue during a finance committee hearing at the Senate on the Department of Finance budget for 2020.
“If we privatise our gaming industry and bid out through a fixed fee the privilege of operating Pagcor, the gaming industry, including small-town lotteries, would PHP300 billion annually in additional revenues be a conservative and fair estimate today?” Mr Drilon was quoted as asking.
Finance Secretary Dominguez was said to have replied: “ I believe so. We could achieve that with no effort.”
It was further reported that putting extra tax on eCigarettes and liquor was likely to raise only approximately PHP37 billion annually in fresh public revenues.
Mr Dominguez was cited as saying on Wednesday that a study by his department three years ago suggested that at least PHP220 billion could be earned if certain casinos under Pagcor’s umbrella were privatised.
Wednesday’s media reports didn’t cite the specific mechanisms by which such a sum might be raised.
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