Philippine President Wages War on Gambling with Fiery Rhetoric

Casino News Daily
Philippine President Wages War on Gambling with Fiery Rhetoric

Rodrigo Duterte is more than two years into his presidential tenure and it has been an eventful two years. Among other things, President Duterte’s past two years will be remembered for the top Philippine official’s continued war on gambling, which has most recently manifested itself in a moratorium on the construction of new casino resorts in the country.

President Duterte’s latest wave of rage against gambling was unleashed in the beginning of 2018 with the above-mentioned moratorium. The official ordered PAGCOR, the country’s gambling regulator, to stop issuing gaming licenses to interested parties in a bid to prevent the proliferation of gambling in the Philippines.

The moratorium was imposed in mid-January. In comments to local media, PAGCOR Chief Andrea Domingo said that the regulator had stopped accepting applications for the issuance of gaming licenses and that only applications submitted before January 13 would be considered. Several interested developers had managed to submit their applications before the above date. And two particular casino resort projects received provisional approval from the country’s regulator.

However, their approval turned into a widely publicized manifestation of President Duterte’s rage against gambling and vows that he would make sure to prevent the materialization of the two casino plans as well as of any other gambling project that might emerge in future.

Why did the two integrated resort schemes gained so much public attention and why did they spur President Duterte’s anger in the first place? Here is a little bit more about the most recent and most publicized events in the Philippines gambling industry.

The Two Failed Casino Resort Projects

News emerged last year that Macau gaming and hospitality company Galaxy Entertainment Group has partnered its Philippine counterpart Leisure & Resorts World Corporation to develop a $500-plus-million integrated resort on the Boracay Island. With its white-sand beaches and its tropical climate, the island is a popular hub for tourists from the Asia-Pacific region.

However, business and development activity on the island drew quite some ire from President Duterte in February. Following the publication of an environmental review of the popular tourism draw, the fiery leader announced that it would be shuttered for a cleanup as it had been turned into a “cesspool” by local businesses. Generally speaking, the environmental review found out that a number of businesses operating on Boracay had been discharging waste water directly into the sea for years. In addition, it turned out that a number of buildings on the island had been constructed without obtaining all the necessary permissions.

President Duterte vowed to make sure that all illegal operations would suffer extreme consequences and that plans for the new gambling operation would fail. The official has repeatedly pointed out over the course of the past several months that casino gambling beyond the existing businesses is something he would not support and that he would do whatever is necessary to prevent Boracay from becoming home to the Galaxy integrated resort.

Despite President Duterte’s comments, Galaxy and its local partner announced that they had managed to acquire a 23-hectare portion of land on Boracay before the island’s closure where the resort would be constructed. Representatives of the developers have pointed out that they believe the hotel and casino complex would be completed by 2021, despite the closure of the popular tourism hub and the Philippine President’s vows to block the scheme.

One more casino resort project has drawn the ire of the country’s top official in recent months. Hong Kong-based developer Landing International Development announced earlier this year a plan to build a $1.5-billion casino resort in the capital Manila.

The company broke ground on the mega-complex on August 7. However, President Duterte announced only a few hours later that the project would be nixed, once again reiterating his hatred for everything gambling. It is also important to note that the official sacked the whole board of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation on the day Landing broke ground on its resort.

Landing planned to build the resort on a portion of land that had previously been occupied by the Nayong Pilipino Cultural Park. The Nayong Pilipino Foundation agreed to lease the site to the Hong Kong-based company. President Duterte and his administration said that the lease contract, penned in March, was flawed and put the government at a significant disadvantage as the agreed rental payment was “unconscionable”. Earlier this month, the Philippine Department of Justice supported the top official’s claims and recommended the cancellation of the project.

The future of both the Galaxy and the Landing casino resort plans is quite uncertain at this point. President Duterte has vowed to prevent both projects as well as any other proposals of this kind and it seems that his stance on the matter is not likely to soften.

President Duterte Bans Casino Workers from Gambling

In a new rollout of casino-related regulations, it became known earlier this month that casino staff would be banned from gambling in the country’s casinos. In a notice dated September 6, the local gambling regulator, the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), said that all employees at gambling establishments will be included in the country’s National Database of Restricted Persons. The computerized database contains the names of all individuals who are restricted from gambling at all local casinos licensed by PAGCOR.

The Philippines is apparently looking to avoid Macau’s mistakes where casino employees have long represented the largest portion of the local register of problem gamblers.

The country’s top official is clearly getting tough on land-based casinos and the scope of his crackdown is growing. It is yet to be seen what his next actions toward restricting the construction of new casino properties will be, but judging by his consistency, we will certainly see more of President Duterte and his anti-gambling rhetoric.

The post Philippine President Wages War on Gambling with Fiery Rhetoric appeared first on Casino News Daily.

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