The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) which acts both as the country’s gaming regulator and the operator of the Casino Filipino brand, has announced it will pursue the sale of those casinos and act only in a regulatory role.
Some lawmakers have criticized the agency for maintaining a dual role, which they contend is an inherent conflict of interest.
In a news release, PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Alejandro Tengco said the body’s board of directors “hopes to privatize the state-run gaming firm’s self-operated casinos nationwide.”
He said PAGCOR has been “open to talks about privatization but [has] ensured that the welfare of employees who will be affected by such management decision will be taken into consideration.”
According to Inside Asian Gaming, PAGCOR runs 42 casinos, 10 under the Casino Filipino brand and 32 satellites. The push to sell them has accelerated in the post-Covid era. Supporters of the sale say it would provide an infusion of capital when the country needs it.
Gross gaming revenues (GGR) from PAGCOR-operated casinos reached PHP4.83 billion (US$88 million) in the fourth-quarter of 2022, up from PHP4.63 billion (US$85 million) in the third-quarter, but far short of the PHP9.17 billion (US$169 million) generated in the fourth-quarter of 2019.
Reuters reports that a sale of the PAGCOR casinos, which operate in leased spaces in hotels and other commercial spaces, could bring in about PHP80 billion (US$1.467 billion) for the government.
The end of travel restrictions, the return of international gamblers and the addition of new casinos will boost the gaming sector through 2024, Tengco said. International tourists come from China, Japan and South Korea to patronize Philippine casinos, particularly those in Manila’s Entertainment City gaming zone.
The casino sector is important to the local economy, employing an estimated 27,000 workers in 2020, according to government data.
In related news, PAGCOR casinos will upgrade their slot management capabilities as well as technical standards for electronic gaming machines.
“As we speak,” said Tengco, “our Licensing and Regulatory Group has already accomplished projects like the updating of suppliers’ regulatory manual, implementing rules and guidelines for foundations, and crafting of Gaming Employment License regulations on prohibition on enter/stay/play.”
He added that PAGCOR is reviewing its policies about online gaming after Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) came under scrutiny last year. He said monitoring of iGaming operations have been stepped up to ensure compliance by licensees.
“We acknowledge our limitations on the side of enforcement and on our capacity to address illegal gambling,” said Tengco, “thus we reinforced our partnerships with various law enforcement agencies to address this concern.”