House leader wants PAGCOR-run casinos privatized

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

June 15, 2024, 6:32 pm

MANILA – The chairperson of the House Committee on Government Reorganization on Saturday proposed to abolish state-run gaming firm Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) and privatize its self-operated casinos.

The proposal of Bukidnon 2nd District Rep. Jonathan Keith Flores seeks to create a Philippine Amusement and Gaming Commission (PAGCOM), which will discharge the function of regulating the gaming operations in the country.

In a news release on Saturday, Flores said he adopted House Bill 3559, authored by former Batangas lawmaker and current Finance Secretary Ralph Recto, as his own.

The measure aims to address PAGCOR's conflicting roles as regulator and operator of gaming activities through the privatization of state-run casinos.

"I have chosen to adopt House Bill 3559 because, among others, it will abolish the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, transfer its regulatory powers to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Commission, and privatize all existing PAGCOR operations and casinos, including all kinds of PAGCOR online gaming," Flores said.

He said once the Government Reorganization and Games and Amusement committees jointly deliberate on it and work on a substitute bill, he will introduce amendments that will effectively phase out all Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) that were granted licenses by PAGCOR.

Another amendment, he said, will be to dismantle all illegal POGOs that were never granted licenses and whose previous licenses were not renewed.

"Through the Committee and the technical working group, I will also introduce amendments that will remove online games on mobile phones and cyberspace that have become electronic means of cybercrime, scams, identity theft and online theft," Flores said.

Under the bill, the PAGCOM shall collect 5 percent as gross revenue tax from casino operators.

PAGCOM shall collect an additional 25 percent from the aggregate gross earnings, which shall be earmarked for the priority projects of the local government unit hosting the gaming facility, establishment and operation of rehabilitation centers for the treatment of addictions, and other priority social services programs of the national government. (PNA)