PAGCOR Eyes Potential Casino Sell-Off And Privatization Of Gaming Sector

PAGCOR Eyes Potential Casino Sell-Off And Privatization Of Gaming Sector March 23, 2023 March 23, 2023 David Walker
 Industry March 23, 2023 by David Walker

Casino Filipino, TagaytaySummary:

  • PAGCOR is planning to sell its self-operated casinos for a potential US$1.47 billion
  • Chairman Alejandro Tengco aims to implement the privatization by 2028
  • The agency will also implement regulatory changes for both land-based and online gaming operations

The main gaming regulator in the Philippines, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) is considering privatizing all of the casinos that it currently operates to focus more on its regulatory duties. PAGCOR Chairman Alejandro Tengco revealed the plan during the ASEAN Gaming Summit held in Manila, organized by Asia Gaming Brief.

Casino Privatization Top Priority for PAGCOR

The idea of privatizing PAGCOR’s commercial functions was put forward many years ago and was reintroduced during then-President Rodrigo Duterte’s term when the agency was led by former Chair Andrea Domingo.

The plan is backed by several government officials who are concerned about PAGCOR’s dual role as casino regulator and operator. It is the only gaming regulator in the world that also runs its own casinos, essentially competing with private casino operators in the country. This setup has been described as anomalous and tainted with conflict of interest.

Previous proposals to sell PAGCOR’s self-operated casinos never materialized, but now it’s back on the agenda and a top priority for PAGCOR, according to Tengco.

PAGCOR runs the Casino Filipino brand of casinos which has over 40 branches throughout the Philippines. The agency also operates satellite casinos in venues owned by third parties.

If the sell-off pushes through, the casinos could be offered in bundles to prospective bidders to achieve greater value, Tengco said. International companies would also be allowed to participate in the tender process.

Gaming venues operated by PAGCOR generated PHP15.79 billion in total gross gaming revenue (GGR) in 2022, more than half of that (PHP8.47 billion) came from mass-market slot machines.

PAGCOR aims to raise around PHP80 billion (US$1.47 billion) from the privatization of its casinos, and former senator and now Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier said proceeds of the sale could be used to establish the Maharlika Investment Fund, a proposed sovereign wealth fund for the Philippines aimed at boosting economic development.

Regulatory Changes on the Way

Tengco said his main goal is for the casino sell-off to happen by the end of his term in 2028 which will also be President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s last year in office. Other regulatory changes that PAGCOR hopes to implement in the coming years include modifying the licensing system for junket operators and land-based casinos, as well as establishing a regulatory framework for online poker.

David WalkerAuthor

David is our resident 'down under' contributor, letting us know what is going on in the southern hemisphere, he is also keen blackjack player