PAGCOR, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, is in a transition period that will see the gaming authority and operator divest its land-based casinos and shift to a regulator-only capacity. And one area the agency is focused on in its new role, is reducing instances of minors accessing gaming floors.

PAGCOR Rodrigo Duterte casino gambling

Per President Rodrigo Duterte’s directives, PAGCOR, the Philippines’ gaming regulator, will shut down casinos that allow minors to gamble. (Image: Office of the President of the Philippines)

In a newly issued memorandum to licensees, PAGCOR reveals any gaming establishment that is found to be allowing minors (persons under the age of 21) entry is subject to closure. The new regulation goes into effect January 1, 2018.

It isn’t known if one single violation would lead to a casino’s termination, or whether that would be an end result of multiple infractions or known allowance of permitting underage access.

The advisory bulletin also dictates fines for other prohibited persons who enter casinos, including government officials, immediate relatives of government officials, and persons on the National Database of Restricted Persons (NDRP). Allowing those individuals into the casino will cost the operator PHP 100,000 ($1,983) per violation.

Duterte’s Directives

President Rodrigo Duterte is no fan of gambling. The controversial leader originally intended to rid the nation of all online gaming, and directed his law enforcement agencies to go after underground gambling networks with the same vigor as they do in combatting illegal drug rings.

Duterte later eased his stance, largely due to inadequate police forces to crack down on the widespread activity. He said in late 2016, “Pay the correct taxes, gamble until you die. I do not really care.”

But he seemingly does care, as he’s directed PAGCOR to make the Philippines the “top gaming and entertainment destination in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations” by 2020. Duterte’s mission is to raise as much money as possible to fund nation-building programs and increase the Philippines’ international presence.    

PAGCOR will soon begin auctioning off its 13 Casino Filipino locations and 35 satellite gaming facilities. Once complete, PAGCOR is expected to be renamed the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Authority (PAGA).

Safety and Security

The days of individuals like Chinese billionaire Jack Lam operating an illegal online gambling network from his Fontana Hot Spring Leisure Parks resort are apparently over. Under its new role, PAGCOR/PAGA will be better equipped to monitor both land-based and internet games.

Instead of regional administrations like the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority and Clark Development Corporation, the latter being where Lam’s rogue enterprise operated, PAGCOR will assume nationwide regulatory responsibility.

One of its most vital concerns will be making sure companies that take ownership of the current PAGCOR properties, as well as new casino operators investing in the Philippines, adhere to the rules and make sure instances of problem gambling do not increase.

Legislation that will formally rename PAGCOR to PAGA mandates that only persons “who are suitable and free from criminal influence or exploitation” can be involved in the management and operation of casinos.

Duterte believes government officials do not fit that description. Through a presidential decree, Duterte made it illegal for lawmakers to gamble at casinos.

“You are in the government with a measly income and yet you’ll be seen in a casino?” Duterte asked in 2016. “I do not want people in government entering the casino.