Malacañang confirms Duterte order to temporarily stop putting up new casinos

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Malacañang on Friday confirmed that President Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered a moratorium on new casinos, a day after Reuters reported that the country’s gaming regulator stopped processing applications for gaming licenses.

“The President decided to temporarily stop putting up casinos,” Presidential Spokesperson Herminio Harry L. Roque, Jr. told reporters in Filipino during a press briefing. “The President first wishes to see how these big companies will run once they’re part of Entertainment City if there’s a need to put up new casinos. But right now, we should have a moratorium on these big casinos.”

Mr. Roque’s announcement confirmed a Reuters report on Thursday which quoted Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) chairman Andrea D. Domingo as saying that the agency “will no longer process applications for gaming licenses following the ban.”

“Four applications for licenses, mostly by local businessmen, are pending with the gaming regulator,” she added.

Last Monday, PAGCOR, which operates casinos in the country, had reported that its “revenues rose 7.6% in 2017, with the opening of new casino sites and the entry of offshore gaming operators.”

PAGCOR said its full-year income from gaming operations stood at P57.34 billion, higher than the P53.3 billion recorded in 2016. This was also 25% higher than its P45.76-billion full-year target.

However, PAGCOR special assistant to the chairman Jose S. Tria, Jr. noted that the 2017’s gross revenue growth of 7.5% was slower than 2016’s 22.88% year-on-year growth from 2015.

Mr. Tria attributed the slower revenue growth to the implementation of a nationwide smoking ban, which also covered casinos. — Arjay L. Balinbin