The Philippines’ Department of Finance is considering a proposal to strip the country’s Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) of the right to operate a portfolio of public sector casinos, reports the Manila Bulletin newspaper.
That would leave the organisation with its core function of being a regulator of land-based casinos from the public and private sectors.
“We believe that government should only be in regulatory functions and not in commercial functions and therefore [should] dispose of – by sale or closing down – the commercial functions,” the country’s Finance Secretary, Carlos Dominguez, recently appointed by incoming president Rodrigo Duterte, said as quoted by the news outlet.
According to Pagcor second-quarter data, released on August 10, Pagcor’s own casinos operated during the period about a third of all table games in that nation’s market, and nearly six out of every 10 electronic gaming machines (EGMs).
Pagcor operated 608 gaming tables and 10,603 EGMs at its own casino venues, which are branded “Casino Filipino”. During the same period, Pagcor regulated a further 10 private-sector casinos that operated an aggregate of 1,280 gaming tables and 7,205 EGMs.
A number of gaming industry lawyers have told GGRAsia that the current model – of Pagcor as an operator-cum-regulator – has the potential for conflicts of interest regarding regulatory policy.
In August 2010 – during the national presidency of Benigno Aquino – the boss of San Miguel Corp, one of the Philippines’ biggest conglomerates, expressed an interest in buying Pagcor for US$10 billion. In the end the idea did not move forward.
In December 2015 during the closing months of Mr Aquino’s presidency, a government commission had recommended the privatisation of Pagcor’s casino operation function, so that it could focus instead on regulating them.
In other developments, Business World newspaper reported on Tuesday that Andrea Domingo, Pagcor’s recently-appointed chair and chief executive, would recommend rejection of another effort – by PhilWeb Corp’s controlling stakeholder Roberto Ongpin – to save gaming parlour operator PhilWeb as a going concern.
“I will recommend to the board that we stick to our first decision,” Ms Domingo reportedly said in a text message said to have been conveyed to the newspaper via a member of Pagcor’s corporate communications team.
Pagcor had said on August 9 that the regulator would not be renewing the gaming licence of PhilWeb, which offered Internet-delivered casino games via shop outlets.
Mr Ongpin had suggested in a Friday letter that Pagcor should keep the business going, then auction it off to help cover the costs of a narcotics rehabilitation centre he was proposing.
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"If the [Macau casino] concessions are put up for bid, there will also be a lot of giant Chinese companies, some having nothing to do with gaming, which would like to take over these enormously successful casinos”
Professor emeritus at Whittier Law School in California, in the United States, and a visiting professor at University of Macau