The Philippine gaming regulator said it welcomed the proposal to have casinos covered by the country’s anti-money laundering (AML) law, but said it doubted such move would be a guarantee against money launderers.
“The inclusion of casinos among the establishments monitored for money laundering activities would not have prevented the systemic failure at the bank level because banks are the primary gatekeepers against illegal transactions,” said Cristino Naguiat, chairman and chief executive of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor). Mr Naguiat was speaking to local reporters after Tuesday’s Senate hearing on how some of the US$81 million allegedly stolen from Bangladesh’s central bank found its way into Philippines casinos.
Several of the casino operators in the Philippines are already covered by similar anti-money laundering laws in their headquarters’ home countries, hence it would not make much difference if the operators would also be covered by the Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Act, Mr Naguiat said, quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper.
The media outlet also quoted Mr Naguiat as saying that gaming operators were open to be covered by the anti-money laundering law as long as that is done in line with global industry standards.
“Laundering money in casinos is highly unlikely since converting illicit money into gaming chips would mean risking losses on the part of the perpetrator. Also, all the winnings in casinos are duly recorded by Pagcor and can easily be accessed by the government,” Mr Naguiat said.
The exclusion of casinos from anti-money laundering obligations contained specifically in the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Act was at the request of some lawmakers and Pagcor, said Senator Teofisto Guingona in February 2013, following the approval of some revisions to the 2001 act.
The head of the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission, Teresita Herbosa, said on Monday that her office would push for casinos to be covered in the anti-money laundering law. Ms Herbosa also co-chairs the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Council.
In early March Pagcor said it was investigating claims that at least three casinos in the country were used as part of a money laundering scheme. Pagcor later said preliminary findings indicated only one of the country’s large-scale casino resorts was caught up in the case.
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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