The Philippine government has announced plans to start the process of privatising 17 casinos currently being operated by the state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) next year.
In an interview with the Philippine Inquirer, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said that the government were currently in the process of determining the individual value of each casino, saying: “That should be one by one because every casino is very different from the other, and then, we’ll figure out the method of privatisation.”
No timescale has been set for the completion of the privatisation, with Dominguez adding: “It’s not going to happen overnight and the deals are quite complex so we have to piece it out and see what is the best deal for the government.”
In 2016, President Duterte told PAGCOR that it had to privatise its casinos to raise funds for state coffers, following concerns from private casino operators who suggested that there might be possible conflict of interest as PAGCOR is both regulator and casino operator.
Over the past decade, PAGCOR has proven to be a very lucrative asset for the Philippine government. In the first three months of this year, the regulator reported a rise of 26.75% in income from its gaming operations when compared to the same period of 2016, jumping to $285.3m. As mandated by legislation the firm paid over $145m in tax revenue and contributions back to the government during this period.
PAGCOR has previously voiced concerns that the government could be set to lose as much as $475m in revenue contributions each year as a result of casino privatisation. However, Dominguez remains unmoved by the body's pleas, saying: “I don’t see how that will happen. First of all, how does a government-run casino compete with the privately run casinos? I think there is no way they can compete.
“If we don’t privatise, they might actually lose their customers. We might as well do it now. And the revenue stream, that’s why we have to analyse how much revenue come from their winnings as against how much of the revenues come from the fees that are being paid.
“And secondly, of course, it will remove the conflict of interest when you are the regulator as well.”
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