THE HEAD of the Senate committee on public services on Wednesday backed a proposal to strip the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) of its role as an operator of state-owned casinos and making it function as a regulator.

“It’s high time for Pagcor to break up its dual role as operator and regulator of the gaming sector,”  Senator Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares said in a statement.

“Pagcor can train its sights to guarantee a level playing field among industry players, prevent illegal activities and ensure the people’s welfare is protected from potential social harm,” she added.

Pagcor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alejandro H. Tengco on Tuesday said they were seriously considering to focus solely on regulating gaming operations, citing a plan to create a regulatory framework for online poker and enhancing slot machine operations.

The agency is also looking at destroying outdated gaming merchandise and equipment and creating and updating regulatory manuals.

It is also tying up with other agencies including the Justice and Interior and Local Government departments, as well as the police and National Bureau of Investigation to better combat illegal gambling.

“While there is no disputing the fact that the government needs revenues, generating and maximizing profits are better left to a separate agency, if not the private sector,” Ms. Poe said.

Pagcor expects to generate about P80 billion ($1.47 billion) from the sale of its 41 casinos.

The Philippines’ gross gaming revenue hit P214.3 billion in 2022, up from P113.1 billion in 2021, according to Pagcor data.  

The proposal seeks to resolve the state company’s conflicting functions that the senator said have resulted in its failure to do due diligence in the operations of Philippine offshore gaming companies and electronic cockfighting.

Lawmakers have sought to ban mostly Chinese gaming companies that operate online casinos, which proliferated during the term of ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte, saying these have become breeding grounds for illegal activities including kidnapping and money laundering.

Lawmakers have also flagged Pagcor’s failure to regulate them and stem abductions involving mostly Chinese workers in the Philippines. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan