PAGCOR & Quezon City Fight Over Bloomberry Casino Development
There’s an ongoing battle between the local government of Quezon City in the Philippines and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) which is the main gambling regulator in the country.
The battle is over a planned casino development in Vertis North which Bloomberry Resorts wants to construct.
Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, who is running for mayor in 2019 does not want local residents to enter the casino establishment. Belmonte was initially in favor of the casino development but suddenly did a U-turn and the city council has now passed an ordinance that would make it difficult for Quezon City residents to gain entry to the casino.
In an interview with local media, Belmonte defended the move, saying she doesn’t have any issue with the ordinance, considering that the developer Bloomberry initially said the casino will target tourists, so access restrictions should be put in place for locals.
Her statement has irked PAGCOR who has now stepped in to make things clear: Belmonte should not interfere with gambling regulatory processes as that duty falls under the remit of the gambling regulator.
The gaming watchdog released a statement earlier this week saying local government units are not authorized to regulate gambling even in their own jurisdictions, as the function is a mandate of PAGCOR, in accordance with Presidential Decree 1869.
The law seems to side with PAGCOR on this one. Since 1975, LGUs have been stripped of the authority to issue license permits or regulate games of chance, by virtue of Presidential Decree Number 771. A legal opinion from 1998 also says PAGCOR is solely authorized to maintain gambling activities anywhere in the country.
“Entry Fees” Won’t Address Problem Gambling
Belmonte’s confusing stance on Bloomberry’s upcoming Solaire Casino in Vertis North complex in the city prompted the gambling regulator to issue a statement. The confusion is because the vice mayor had previously expressed her support for the project, saying an ordinance would be issued so the development could push through.
However, it turned out that the ordinance includes restrictions, requiring locals to pay an entry fee before they can get into the casino. PAGCOR said the “entry fee” policy would only drive away recreational bettors, so it would not be effective in addressing problem gambling.
PAGCOR is stressing that Belmonte can’t issue an approval for the casino and then put in place restrictions to its operations. She can’t have it both ways. If the Quezon City government was concerned of the impact the casino would have on local residents, it should not have granted permission in the first place.
A court battle between both parties might arise if Belmonte refuses to lift the restrictions. Quezon city can also retract the license, putting hundreds of jobs and massive revenue in jeopardy.