Posted on: June 17, 2024, 11:21h. 

Last updated on: June 17, 2024, 11:21h.

Philippines lawmakers have proposed overhauling the country’s gaming industry and ridding the government’s interest in operating slot machines, table games, and online gambling platforms.

PAGCOR Philippines casinos gaming industry
PAGCOR officials and Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos (far left) unveil the gaming regulatory and operator’s new logo in July 2023. PAGCOR in the coming years plans to sell off its government-owned casinos. (Image: Philippine Star)

Jonathan Flores, a senior member of the Philippines House of Representatives who chairs the chamber’s Committee on Government Reorganization, is calling on the Philippines Congress to support House Bill 3559. The measure was introduced in August 2022 by Rep. Ralph Recto, who is now the Secretary of Finance, but has sat unacted on in the Manila capital for nearly two years.

HB 3559 is an act to create the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Commission (PAGCOM). The government entity would regulate the many commercial casinos operating across Southeast Asia and additionally govern online gaming.

PAGCOM would succeed PAGCOR — the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation — that currently both regulates and operates commercial casinos. PAGCOR’s casinos operate under the government’s Casino Filipino brand.

Conflict of Interest 

PAGCOR regulates commercial casino resorts in Manila and the capital’s Entertainment City, as well as casino venues in the Philippines’ freeport zones. Additionally, PAGCOR runs nine Casino Filipino branches and 33 Casino Filipino satellite locations.

There have for many years been calls for PAGCOR to sell off its Casino Filipino venues and transition to a regulatory-only capacity. During President Rodrigo Duterte’s reign, PAGCOR was readying to sell off those assets before the president concluded that their operations were too profitable to divest.

However, under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who assumed office on June 30, 2022, the government has begun the process of selling certain PAGCOR satellites. A handful of PAGCOR casinos have been divested since Marcos took office, though the most profitable Casino Filipino branches in Manila, Davao, Cebu City, and several other major cities and tourist destinations remain under PAGCOR ownership.

PAGCOR has committed to selling its remaining casinos by the end of the first quarter of 2026. PAGCOR Chief Executive Alejandro Tengco said last year that the agency is upgrading the casinos’ information technology systems and security protocols to ensure the government receives a premium price for the locations.

Privatization is at the forefront of our master plan with PAGCOR shifting its energy towards a purely regulatory role. Once these upgrades and renovations are complete, we expect our casinos to attract more players and guests, thus making our casinos more attractive to potential investors once we start offering them for sale,” Tengco said at last year’s G2E Asia expo.

“These projects and developments are geared towards our ultimate goal of decoupling PAGCOR’s role,” he continued. “Once we have a pure regulatory entity, you can expect a more dynamic and more lucrative Philippine gaming industry with a more level playing field that promotes fair competition and growth.”

Business Booming

The Philippines’ gaming market attractiveness has improved since China forced the government in Macau to better scrutinize junket operators. The travel organizers for many years had marketed to mainland Chinese people to gamble in the Special Administrative Region, the only place in the People’s Republic where casinos are allowed.

China President Xi Jinping declared that the large capital outflow of money through Macau posed national security risks. After a leading junket tycoon was successfully prosecuted on gambling crimes and sentenced to 18 years in a Chinese prison, most junkets fled for more favorable operating climates, including the Philippines.

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