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PAGCOR eyes privatization of self-operated casinos

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alejandro Tengco on Tuesday unveiled plans to privatize the agency’s self-operated casinos and instead focus on a purely regulatory role.

According to Tengco, the current PAGCOR Board, which assumed office in August 2022, is open to talks on privatization, considering the welfare of its employees who will be affected.

Under its mandate, PAGCOR is required to regulate the gaming industry, generate revenues for the Philippine government's socio-civic and national development programs, and help promote the tourism industry.

PAGCOR also operates casinos across the country, collectively called Casino Filipino. It has three in Metro Manila, three in the rest of Luzon, and four in the Visayas and Mindanao regions based on its official website.

It booked P58.96 billion revenues in 2022, reflecting a 66.16% increase from the P35.48 billion posted in 2021, driven mainly by its gaming operations which contributed P55.05 billion.

With a planned shift to acting as a pure regulator, Tengco said discussions have also been made on the creation of regulatory frameworks for online poker operations and other gaming aspects.

“We are studying the possibility of regulating other facets of the overseas gaming operations, or the possible regulation of Special Class of BPOs or those who service legitimate operators licensed abroad,” he was quoted as saying in a statement.

Also being considered are the amendments on the processing of penalties imposed on overseas gaming operators and their service providers in efforts to discourage non-compliance and involvement in irregular activities.

Tengco said the Licensing and Regulatory Group has completed projects such as the update of the suppliers’ regulatory manual, the implementing rules and guidelines for foundations, and the crafting of the Gaming Employment License regulations on prohibition on enter, stay, or play.

PAGCOR has also revisited policies and regulatory frameworks for online gaming, following the concerns raised against Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).

“We acknowledge our limitations on the side of enforcement and on our capacity to address illegal gambling, thus we reinforced our partnerships with various law enforcement agencies to address this concern,” he said.

PAGCOR also said it plans to expand its permitted game offerings and products such as eSports, Live Dealer Games, Online Horse Racing, and Online Arcade.

“Finally, to better regulate the fast-developing and volatile online gaming industry, we aim to revitalize our information technology systems. It is but right for us to level-up on our technological capabilities to be better in our role as gaming regulators,” Tengco said.

“While we may struggle to be at par facilities-wise, I am of firm belief that we do not trail behind in terms of skill set and talent pool. The greatest asset PAGCOR has ever had is its human resource,” he added. —VAL, GMA Integrated News