PAGCOR Could Lose Some Authority Depending on Decision by Philippine Supreme Court

Posted on: June 17, 2019, 12:43h. 

Last updated on: June 17, 2019, 12:43h.

A gaming ordinance enacted by Quezon City, Philippines is under review by the nation’s Supreme Court and may have far-reaching impact on the authority of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

Maria Josefina “Joy” Belmonte, vice-mayor of Quezon City, Philippines, who is expected to take over as mayor on June 30, says a pending Supreme Court review of a local gaming ordinance will be followed by city officials. (Image:

The local rule — identified as City Ordinance 2773-201 — discourages Quezon City residents from gambling. One way is by charging a fee to enter a gaming venue of PHP1,500 (US$29), and the rule imposes other fees if gaming online.

Maria Josefina “Joy” Belmonte, vice-mayor of Quezon City who is expected to take over as mayor on June 30, cautioned if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the city, PAGCOR — the Philippine casino regulator that also operates its own gaming venues — would have less authority. PAGCOR also could attempt to get a restraining order to prevent the ordinance from being implemented.

Quezon City to Abide by Court Ruling

The Quezon City Council approved the ordinance last October. Soon after, it was challenged in the courts.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the local government, then that is a victory for all local governments because that means all local governments can now regulate in their respective jurisdictions,” Belmonte told BusinessWorld.

She was additionally quoted, “If the Supreme Court rules in favor of PAGCOR, we will respect the ruling of the Supreme Court.”

In March, PAGCOR announced it opposed the city ordinance. Under Presidential Decree No. 771, the national body says it has control to regulate gambling in the nation.

“I believe it [local law] includes regulating gambling because I believe it is a vice, and I believe it is something that can affect the welfare of our constituents,” Belmonte told BusinessWorld. The ordinance attempts to limit the risk of problem gambling and the city wants to work with PAGCOR to limit the addictions.

Under the ordinance, the city would set up a Gambling Regulatory Advisory Council. The council will review casino permits and oversee venues by working with PAGCOR and local police.

As of most recent records, the city has 54 betting/off-track stations, four betting/online bingo, 11 lotto outlets, and 13 online casinos in operation, BusinessWorld reported.

Duterte Flip-Flops on Gambling

Gambling is a national issue in the Philippines. Last month, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte admitted at a political rally for a mid-term election he could no longer “control” gambling in the Southeast Asian nation.

“I will not meddle with it anymore,” he told supporters. But he warned he will not allow illegal “extortion or drugs” to take place, according to a report from the Manila Times.

Earlier in his administration, Duterte had made it a priority to scrutinize “illegal” online or in-person gaming. But May’s speech appears to be his clearest statement so far to signal his government will take a more hands-off policy.

After gaining power in 2016, Duterte described gambling as a nasty vice that needed to be controlled and investigated by the national government — much like the trade in illegal drugs.

Two years ago, Duterte signed a proclamation announcing his government’s beefed-up enforcement on improper gambling. Yet, it was followed by another statement last June from the controversial leader indicating compliance on some gaming laws would become lax.

“Gamble until you die. I do not really care,” the president has said previously.

More recently, too, no new licenses have been issued for land-based gaming venues. But online gambling operations have strengthened in recent years.

PAGCOR sent $170 million in taxes to the federal government for the first quarter of 2019.