The head of the Philippine casino regulator has clarified that President Rodrigo Duterte’s Thursday announcement “ordering the closure of all online gaming” in the country will only cover what the authorities termed unlicensed online gaming operations. That is according to media reports quoting Friday comments by Andrea Domingo, chair of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor).
Ms Domingo added the government would issue an executive order to clarify the matter formally.
“The enforcement of that order is being decided by a technical working group… Secretary [of Justice, Vitalino] Aguirre is the task force head,” Ms Domingo said in an interview with Philippine media outlet InterAksyon. “Pagcor, in this matter, is purely [a] fact-finding and recommendatory [body],” she added.
In a separate statement on Friday, Secretary Aguirre also confirmed that President Duterte’s order would only affect online gaming operators that were violating the law and not paying the proper taxes. Those complying with Pagcor regulations “have nothing to fear,” he said, quoted by the Philippine Star newspaper.
Mr Aguirre’s comments were made after a meeting with Pagcor to clarify the issue, according to media reports.
Mr Duterte had said on Thursday he was “ordering the closure of all online gaming. All of it. It has no use.” At the time, he did not go into detail regarding the topic, but his comments led to sharp declines in share price of several Philippine-listed firms with investments in online and electronic gaming.
The issue of taxation was recently raised by President Duterte during a closure process initiated against a Philippines-based proxy betting service – that investment analysts said was being offered until recently by Chinese businessman Jack Lam Yin Lok. In early December Mr Duterte said he had ordered the arrest of Mr Lam for alleged bribery and economic sabotage. The President has also ordered the seizure of all gaming assets in that country belonging to the gaming entrepreneur.
The calls followed the detention in November of 1,316 Chinese nationals at Mr Lam’s Fontana Casino at the Fontana Hot Spring Leisure Parks at Clark on the main island of Luzon.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China