The Philippine casino regulator has claimed in a Senate hearing in that country that Chinese gaming entrepreneur Jack Lam Yin Lok owes it PHP13.9 billion (US$279.2 million) from his operations there.
It was not clear from media reports of Monday’s proceedings how the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) had arrived at the number.
The website of Mr Lam’s Jimei Group lists the Fontana Casino at the Fontana Hot Spring Leisure Parks at Clark, and Fort Ilocandia Hotel and Casino in Laoag City, as its Philippine operations.
GMA News quoted Pagcor official Arnell Ignacio – well-known previously in the country as an actor and comedian – as saying at the hearing that Mr Lam remitted to Pagcor – in the words of the news outlet – “1 percent of his earnings from his junket operations” in the Philippines. The Manila Standard newspaper quoted “1 percent of earnings from his operations”.
The GMA report cited Mr Ignacio as saying the PHP13.9-billion figure allegedly owed was a preliminary estimate as – in the media outlet’s words – Pagcor “could not monitor Mr Lam’s earnings from his illegal online gambling operations as it was not licensed by Pagcor”.
At the heart of the reported conflict between Mr Lam and Philippine authorities, which first hit the headlines in December, appears to be varying views regarding who or what body or bodies is licensing or authorised to licence Mr Lam to perform his various Philippine gaming operations, and the amount of tax revenue his operations should pay to the Philippines government.
The matter has seen Mr Lam’s side pitched against, respectively, the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, who has called for his arrest for alleged bribery and economic sabotage; the country’s Bureau of Immigration, which has alleged he has illegally employed foreign nationals; and Pagcor, which has ordered the closure of his Philippine operations, claiming he was not paying the necessary dues.
On Monday the Manila Standard reported Mr Ignacio saying at the Senate hearing – called to discuss allegations of bribery against immigration officials – that, in the words of the newspaper, Pagcor “does not approve of” Mr Lam’s “online gambling business” and that it has issued permits only for the tycoon’s casino, junket operations and phone betting.
In Macau, Mr Lam’s Jimei Group is reportedly involved in junket operations at the City of Dreams casino, according to Jimei Group’s corporate website. The group also says it runs Jimei Casino next door to the Grand Lapa hotel on Macau peninsula under a SJM Holdings Ltd gaming licence.
Last week Macau’s casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau confirmed to GGRAsia that it held a meeting earlier this month with Mr Lam. The Macau regulator said the aim was to get a clarification from Mr Lam regarding the situation of his business interests in the Philippines.
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