Philippines’ congress have announced a bill that will limit the state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation’s (PAGCOR) ability to grant licenses to operators looking to provide their services within the country.
Members of the House of Representatives have been looking to strip this power from PAGCOR for themselves ever since an arson attack on Resorts World Manila two months ago that left 38 people dead.
The bill would make PAGCOR “purely regulatory” and rename it the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Authority (PAGA).
Authored by Party-list group One Patriotic Coalition of Marginalized Nationals (1-Pacman) representatives, Enrico Pineda and Michael Romero, if passed the bill will consolidate the regulatory powers of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), the Games and Amusement Board (GAB), the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority and other economic bodies into PAGA.
This will leave PAGA being tasked with detecting offences, collecting and investigating complaints, testing gambling equipment, examining disputes and also selling related assets.
If the bill is passed, operators will have to secure a legislative franchise regardless of whether their licenses have yet expired.
Those who secure the required legislative measures will then be stumped with a five percent franchise tax on aggregate gross earnings.
Opinions on this move are divided as many analysts have argued that PAGCOR’s powers becoming purely regulatory will signify to foreign investors that gambling regulation is now taken seriously in the country, where many looking to invest were held back by the incomplete nature of the legislation, but critics have also argued that with congress being the sole provider of licenses, vested business interests might cloud their judgement.
“It will be a conflict of interest for many legislators who are connected to business interests in gambling,” said Teddy Baguilat Jr., an Ifugao representative.
“[The] legislative agenda of the speaker reeks of protecting vested interests and consolidating power over grant of franchises to congress,” reiterated Akbayan representative Tom Villarin.