PAGCOR Begins Privatizing Philippines State-Owned Casinos

Posted on: November 19, 2016, 02:30h. 

Last updated on: November 18, 2016, 12:36h.

PAGCOR Philippines casinos Duterte
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has said he wants to kill three million drug addicts in his country, is selling off his country’s casinos currently operated by PAGCOR. (Image: Manman Dejeto/AFP)

PAGCOR, the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation, is in the process of selling its state-owned casinos and slots clubs to private companies and operators.

The country’s Department of Finance (DOF) revealed this week that the gaming regulatory is unloading assets and returning to a governance-only operation. Chairwoman of the Philippines Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Loren Legarda said PAGCOR will privatize ownership of its 11 casinos by the end of September 2017.

Responding to a suggestion made by Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon, who recommended PAGCOR become exclusively a casino regulator and not operator, Legarda explained, “They have already started it, the process of privatization and agreed that the regulatory function will only be retained with PAGCOR. By the third quarter (2017) . . . I’m told that the process can be consummated.”

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has been a wild card on gambling since he took office in June.

His presidency began with an all-out assault on illegal drug and gambling syndicates with a shoot first, ask questions later mentality. His “Death Squad” enforcement has raised much concern among nations around the world.

Duterte also went after online gambling and forced PhilWeb to close its nearly 300 gambling cafes. But the president recently changed his tune, saying his enforcement agencies aren’t large enough to infiltrate gambling syndicates that are often in cahoots with local law officers.

Nevada Interest Nonexistent

Nearly every major casino operator in the United States is interested in tapping into more of the Asian gambling market.

MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, and Hard Rock have all expressed interest in building in Japan should the country finally legalize resort casinos and gambling. The first two Nevada-based companies say they’re prepared to spend up to $10 billion should Japan, dubbed the world’s gambling holy grail, welcome casinos.

Is the Philippines the next-best bet? With 102 million residents, the Philippines is the 12th most populated country in the world. Japan is 11th with 126 million.

The primary difference, of course, is their economies. Japan is home to some of the planet’s largest companies by revenue and ranks third in the world when it comes to gross domestic product (GDP). The Philippines is #36.

Casinos for Sale

PAGCOR is offering up three casinos in Manila, five in Luzon, and five in Visayas-Mindanao. Though it appears unlikely that a Nevada-based gaming corporation would snag up a Filipino casino, the venues should be attractive to certain gambling firms.

Gross gaming revenue at PAGCOR casino properties is up almost six percent through the first nine months of 2016. And the year-to-date has been even more prosperous for private gambling casinos, which are up nearly 20 percent on 2015.

The Philippines is thought to be selling its gaming interests in order to provide an immediate influx of revenue to Duterte’s government. However, the Senate says it’s simply to move its gaming authority into a capacity that more mimics those of other countries where the agency regulates, and not operates, casinos.