Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has ordered an indefinite pause on issuing casino licences across the country.
The request was made to Andrea Domingo, chairwoman of the country’s gambling regulator Pagcor, after the president expressed concerns of “proliferation”.
“The president told me last 11 January to freeze the entry of new casinos,” said Domingo.
“We’re just processing now the applications we received before the president ordered the moratorium. After that, as of 13 January, we’ve stopped accepting applications.”
Despite announcing the Pagcor board would now draft a memorandum to detail the moratorium, Domingo declined to comment how long the hiatus would last, adding “we’ll let the market mature first”.
The announcement follows the imposing in March 2017 of a five year moratorium on licenses in Manila in what was seen as an encouragement to operators to pursue development outside the capital, with Domingo present at the groundbreaking ceremony of Udenna Corp’s Emerald Resort in Lapu-Lapu City on 26 July.
The latest decree, though, seems to disregard the $383m generated by Pagcor-licensed casinos in 2017, and seems indicative of an anti-gambling prejudice within the president’s office.
The forecast for casinos already established in the Philippines may appear sunny, with competition limited to existing properties and the 13 license applicants awaiting approval, however, an indefinite ban on casino licences could easily limit the natural growth of the industry.
Though Domingo predicted additional casinos in areas like the Luzon Island resort of Clark could make them “like Las Vegas,” the country may be waiting a long time until they can claim their own strip.