Amid the Philippine authorities’ proposal to sell off the public-sector Casino Filipino chain of land-based venues, the country’s government also plans for an online platform called casinofilipino.com, to be launched in the first quarter of 2024.
So said Alejandro Tengco (pictured), chairman and chief executive of the country’s gaming regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), in a keynote speech on Thursday in the country’s capital Manila, during the SiGMA Asia trade show and conference for the iGaming sector.
Who or what will run the online brand, is still a matter of discussion, Mr Tengco suggested in comments to GGRAsia on the sidelines of his keynote address. A central reason mentioned by Mr Tengco in a speech a week ago in Macau – for a sell off for the land-based Casino Filipino chain – was to separate Pagcor’s regulatory functions from its role as a casino operator.
“We are now in the process of studying if it will be coming from the operations group… we’re already also looking at proposals for a joint venture,” Mr Tengco told GGRAsia in relation to the casinofilipino.com plan.
Asked if that meant Pagcor could actually reprise its role as an operator, but this time in the online segment, the Pagcor boss stated “the only reason we are launching it [casinofilipino.com] is so this can be part of the value enhancement”. He didn’t clarify if that meant value enhancement for the sell-off regarding the land-based Casino Filipino chain.
In March, the Pagcor chairman had announced the body was looking to raise circa PHP80 billion (US$1.47 billion currently) from the sale of its public-sector casinos.
During his Thursday speech, Mr Tengco said the new online platform would be seeking to attract customers from overseas, by using sufficiently advanced technology that “enables users from around the world to interact and participate in virtual environments”.
He added: “Thus, it can reach a global audience and can establish a presence in virtual communities of avid gamers. It likewise offers an opportunity to tap into new markets and diversify… customer base.”
According to a press release issued by Pagcor on Thursday, the agency’s chairman said the online Casino Filipino would “bring several benefits and opportunities, such as increased revenue, extended reach and market expansion, cost efficiency, and enhanced customer engagement.”
Mr Tengco was quizzed on Thursday by GGRAsia on whether either foreign affiliates or foreign operating partners could be involved in running the online Casino Filipino. He stated: “We will look into all possibilities,” adding that the platform was “being developed right now”.
Seeking ‘grey list’ exit
The Pagcor chairman also mentioned in his SiGMA Asia speech the Philippines’ urgent wish to free itself from the so-called “grey list” of the international anti-money laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force. The watchdog regards appearance on the list as a sign there need to be improvements in such safeguards.
Mr Tengco stated: “I cannot overemphasise the need for the country… to be delisted from the grey list, as it affects not only the gaming industry, but also negatively impacts our country’s trade, commerce, and financial standing in the world.”
In his speech, the Pagcor boss also mentioned the importance of modernising Pagcor’s slot machine operations in the land-based Casino Filipino network.
“We expect our customers to have a renewed gaming experience as we endeavour to enhance our game offerings by replacing our old machines with a total of 3,500 brand-new units of electronic gaming machines under a lease agreement between Pagcor and the manufacturer,” he stated
State-run Pagcor said on Wednesday it recorded total income of PHP36.21 billion in the first half of 2023, a 35.6-percent increase from the prior-year period. Revenues in the six months to June 30 showed that Pagcor’s income from gaming operations and regulatory fees from its licensees amounted to PHP34.12 billion.
“For the second half of this year, our total income from gaming operations is projected to be PHP37 billion, which brings to a total of PHP71 billion the projected income from gaming operations by the end of 2023,” said Mr Tengco on Thursday.
“This is 94 percent compared to the 2019 record-breaking year of Pagcor. If realized, it will be 30-percent higher than last year’s income of PHP55 billion,” he added.
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