Philippines-based PhilWeb Corp said more than 5,000 employees could lose their jobs if the firm’s licence to run e-Games outlets in the country is not renewed. The government would also lose the revenue it collects from PhilWeb’s operation, the company said in a press release filed with the Philippine Stock Exchange on Monday.
PhilWeb in 2003 received a licence from the country’s casino regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp – also known as Pagcor – to launch a network of e-Games outlets in that country.
PhilWeb has become the focus of attention following the Philippines’ new President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-oligarch and anti-online gambling remarks. Businessman Roberto Ongpin stepped down as Philweb’s chairman on Thursday, as Mr Duterte singled out Mr Ongpin as an example of an “oligarch” he would bring down during his term.
Philweb vice chair and director Anna Bettina Ongpin – daughter of Mr Ongpin – on Friday submitted her resignation to the Philweb board. The resignation took effect immediately.
“The main reason why Mr Ongpin resigned from PhilWeb is to save the company. He recognised that if he stayed on, PhilWeb’s e-Games outlets could be shut down, which would lead to the loss of its business and eventual closure, affecting more than 5,000 employees,” said PhilWeb president, Dennis Valdes, in a statement.
Mr Duterte said during his first cabinet meeting that he planned to stop the proliferation of online gambling in the country and revoke existing licences. The government has not yet provided further details on such plans, namely which firms or types of games would be affected by a potential ban on online gaming within the Philippines.
Pagcor had revoked a total of 124 operating licences for e-Games parlours in July, according to local media reports.
In the press release, PhilWeb’s Mr Valdes said “e-Games is not online gaming”.
“It [PhilWeb's e-Games network] is a private, members-only network of clubs where players need to be physically present in order to play. Access to these clubs is strictly controlled such that it is only open to members who are over 21 years old and are financially capable of gaming,” he said.
To date, there are 286 Pagcor e-Games outlets managed by PhilWeb, according to the company.
The listed gaming technology company additionally said that it has remitted over PHP14 billion (US$298.2 million) to Pagcor since 2003.
“In 2015, PhilWeb remitted over PHP2.1 billion to the gaming regulator and also paid over PHP280 million in corporate income tax, value-added tax and other taxes,” the firm added.
On July 11, PhilWeb had its licence extended for a period of one month, until August 10.
The value of PhilWeb’s shares fell 39.9 percent in the first week of trading in August. The company stock was trading at PHP7.1 in the middle of the morning on Monday, down 20.9 percent from Friday’s closing price.
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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