Philippines Police Close Down Lottery Outlets after President Duterte Alleges Widespread Corruption

Posted on: July 27, 2019, 12:58h. 

Last updated on: July 28, 2019, 06:47h.

Philippine National Police (PNP) shut down several hundred venues across the nation Saturday that had featured Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) games — in a brazen crackdown ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte due to what he called “massive corruption.”

PNP Chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde (right) assists in closing a lottery outlet and STL operator in Baguio City, Philippines. (Image: The Philippines Star)

The controversial leader gave police and the military just a few hours before starting to implement the order on the PCSO-operated, licensed and franchised offerings. Gaming and gambling materials were ordered removed from the premises, too.

The cause is massive corruption,” Duterte alleged in an approximately 8-minute long video posted on Facebook. “Everybody has to stop.

“It seems … contracts were crafted in favor of corruption and to favor other corporations and people. I will not allow it,” he was quoted by ABS-CBN News.

The news site also reported that as of Saturday, some 923 lotto outlets were closed in the Manila metropolitan region. Police arrested five persons who were charged with illegal gambling on Saturday morning.

In response, PCSO General Manager Royina M. Garma said the agency will comply with the suspension order “until further notice.

“Rest assured that PCSO shall appeal to the … President for the resumption of the … games to PCSO’s mandate and for the interest of the PCSO, its agents and its beneficiaries,” Garma added.

Players with advance play tickets should keep their tickets until further notice, he advised.

Inquiry Will Not Be Stopped by Court

A government investigation will be undertaken. But Duterte rejected any efforts by a judge to block his directive.

“I will not honor any order from any court stopping us or enjoining us to stop our desire to go into a massive investigation for the massive corruption that is existing in the PCSO,” the president said.

The games include popular lotteries that provide revenue for healthcare. The terminated games include lotto, small town lottery (STL), Keno and Peryahan ng Bayan, according to ABS-CBN News.

Marikina City Mayor Marcy Teodoro said that city already forbids this kind of gambling, the news report adds. Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto was quoted about the order, “We will study it first.”

An unnamed source told the Philippine Star that current and former officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and of the PNP are “making a killing in the gaming operations of the PCSO at the expense of government,” a news report said.

“These military and police officials have become a problem for the PCSO, starting when retired military officials headed the PCSO and their hands were tied because they could not do anything about the power of these officials,” the source said.

In March, Duterte fired Alexander Balutan as general manager of the PCSO, GMA News reported. PCSO raised 53 billion pesos ($1.04 billion) from its games in 2017, which was 34 percent higher than in 2016, Bloomberg News said.

Duterte Flip Flops on Gambling Stance

This weekend’s presidential order and police crackdown marked a turn-around from a more lax attitude recently on gambling in the Philippines.

In May, Duterte announced a hands-off policy on many forms of gaming just before a national election. He admitted then he could no longer “control” gambling in the nation and it looked like he would let individuals decide for themselves about taking part in popular forms of gaming.

“I will not meddle with it anymore,” he told supporters at a political rally, 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.

May’s speech appeared to be his clearest statement 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. Two years ago, Duterte signed a proclamation announcing his government’s beefed-up enforcement on improper gambling.

Yet, it was followed by another statement in June 2018 from the leader indicating compliance on jueteng laws would become lax.

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

Duterte has also changed his stance on the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). First, he wanted the organization to sell off its casinos and just be a regulator. But then he realized the eight Casino Filipino venues and nearly three dozen satellite facilities generated too much money for them to disappear.

Philippines casinos won $3.6 billion last year, and the four integrated land-based casino resorts in Manila generated the lion’s share of the gross gaming revenue (GGR). City of Dreams, Solaire, Resorts World, and Okada won $2.71 billion. E-gaming parlors reported GGR of more than $500 million.

More recently, Duterte announced he wanted PAGCOR to make the Philippines “the top gaming and entertainment destination” in Southeast Asia by 2020.