A lawmaker in the Philippines has submitted a bill to the country’s Senate to amend a Presidential Decree that created the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), the regulator-cum-operator of casinos in that country.
The proposed measure aims to “address the impelling issues that arise from these conflicting roles” of regulating and operating casinos, senator Panfilo Lacson said in the explanatory note of Senate Bill 1471, submitted late last month.
“In order to promote a level-playing field in the gambling industry and avoid conflict of interests, Pagcor should cede its role as operator of all gambling and gaming activities,” reads the bill. “Through such manner, it can focus and put premium to its regulatory authority, which is its governmental role.”
The Philippines’ Department of Finance had announced in August last year a plan to strip Pagcor of the right to operate a portfolio of public sector casinos. It had been reported by local media last month that the government would like to invite bids from the private sector – by year-end – for the publicly-run casinos of Pagcor.
Pagcor directly operates a suite of state-run casinos and oversees several private-sector ones. Its own brand of casinos is called “Casino Filipino”. According to the latter’s website, the brand operates venues in eight locations across the country, and has a further 36 so-called “satellite” sites across the Philippines.
Under Senate Bill 1471, existing Pagcor casinos must be privatised one year after the measure is passed. Proceeds from the sale of its assets shall be remitted to the Bureau of Treasury for appropriation by the Philippine Congress.
In addition, the bill seeks to consolidate Pagcor’s authority to regulate newly developed gaming and gambling activities, premises and technologies, including online gaming sites.
The bill also seeks to prevent the licences Pagcor issues to gaming operators from being used for criminal or illegal activities, suggesting that the Pagcor board shall hold an “exhaustive, exacting and intrusive” investigation of applications for licences, “so as to ensure that gaming is kept free of corrupt or criminal influence.” The potential licensee shall shoulder expenses for the investigation, according to the bill.
The Philippine Congress last week approved amendments to a money laundering law in order to cover the oversight of casinos.
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