The Philippine market regulator faces major changes to its role if a new bill is passed by parliament, while the chair of the organization is facing charges for graft and misconduct over her handling of the online industry, local media reports.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has filed a priority bill that would see the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) become a “purely regulatory” agency, turning over its licensing powers to Congress, according to a report from the Inquirer.
House Bill No. 6514, if passed, would see Pagcor renamed as the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Authority (Paga), which will handle all regulatory functions in the gaming industry.
The bill will see Pagcor take over the regulatory functions handled currently by the likes of PCSO, Games and Amusement Board, Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza), Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (Apeco), Freeport Area of Bataan, and other special economic zones.
Under the new bill, all gaming operators will need to secure a legislative franchise from Congress.
The bill will also allow for existing licensees to have one year to secure a legislative franchise, or risk their operations becoming illegal.
Franchisees would also be subject to a five-percent franchise tax on aggregate gross earnings.
Thus, Paga would be tasked with collecting franchise fees from holders of legislative franchises, enact harm minimization measures, and make sure that only franchisees conduct gaming operations.
It would also be tasked with handling policy matters, supervision of all gaming operations, and the adjudication of disputes between operators and patrons.
The House games and amusement committee is set to begin hearings on the measure this week, according to reports.
New council for casino privitization
The government is also planning to create a new council to oversee the privitization of pagcor casinos, according to the Department of Finance (DOF) on Monday.
In an interview with Philstar, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the new team would handle the the technicalities in the privatization process of Pagcor-owned casinos.
“We have a Privatization Management Office, but PAGCOR is a special case. It is the licenses that we are privatizing. Its more technical. Quite frankly, we admit it’s more technical than what the PMO can handle,” Dominguez said.
Creation of the team would need approval of the president, he said.
Pagcor chair faces graft charges
In separate news, a graft and breach of conduct complaint has been filed against the chair of Pagcor Andrea Domingo over an alleged circumvention of legal matters that has allowed the regulatory body to have a monopoly over online gaming in the country, according to the Manila Bulletin.
In the complaint, Domingo was accused of “pitting two legal offices of the government against each other,” which allowed Pagcor to take out Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO) from the online gaming market.
Leon Estrella Peralta, founding chairman of the Anti-Trapo Movement (ATM) who filed the complaint, said Domingo was “so desperately” trying to move “heaven and earth to the point of their willful violation of the Constitution and the law.”
“What gives? They are both government agencies, and all their proceeds are supposed to all go to the government treasury. Why take APECO out of the online gaming scenario? This is unless there is something else to be gained from a monopoly of licensing,” said Peralta.
Peralta said he is worried that PAGCOR would have monopolistic control of online gaming operations in the country which would open the industry to corruption.