The privatisation of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. casinos is “out of the question,” as they are providing revenue to fund government programs, Alfredo Lim, the regulator’s president and chief operating officer said.
PAGCOR operates nine casinos across the country, as well as acting as the regulator for the country’s gaming industry. This dual role has often been criticised for the potential for conflicts of interest, leading to calls for the sale of its properties.
“It would be disadvantageous for the government to privatise PAGCOR,” Lim said on the sidelines of the ASEAN Gaming Summit, where he gave a keynote address.
“With the enactment of the Universal Health Bill, PAGCOR is mandated to fund this program,” he said, referring to a bill signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in February that aims to provide universal health coverage. “In fact, 50 percent of our contribution to nation building will be appropriated to finance the implementation of this program.”
The Philippine gaming industry generated PHP215.8 billion ($4 billion) in total revenue in 2018, up from PHP176.5 billion the year earlier. PAGCOR’s own casinos generated PHP35.8 billion, little changed from the prior year.
The government has also had an increasing revenue stream from its Philippine Offshore Gaming operator licenses, with Chinese firms flooding into the country.
Lim said PAGCOR is now seeking to tap the European market and had a “surprising” level of enquiries during ICE Totally Gaming in London.
The regulator has issued 57 POGO licenses to date and Lim expects that figure to rise further this year. Unlike in the land-based sphere there is currently no cap on the number of potential licenses that can be issued.