Despite an average of nearly 24 percent growth in recent years, the Philippine casino market is scaring off big investors because of poor regulation and security, a report has warned.
The market has been marred in recent months by several incidents, including an arson attack at a gaming resort that claimed 38 lives in June.
In the same month, Kazuo Okada, the former chairman of the Okada Manila resort, was removed from his job following an investigation into alleged improper payments.
The report, issued by Newswires, stated that the security and regulatory issues were severely hindering the market’s ambitions to become one of Asia’s top gambling destinations.
“The credibility, the transparency, is just not there to satisfy the requirements of most international investor operators,” said Ben Lee, managing partner of Macau-based IGamiX Management & Consulting.
Meanwhile, a US State Department report in March described the Philippine casino sector as a “weak link” in anti-money laundering and terrorist financing and noted that criminal groups had “infiltrated casino operations” for organised crime.
The report also noted that drug traffickers “use the Philippine banking system, commercial enterprises, and particularly casinos, to transfer drug and other illicit proceeds from the Philippines to offshore accounts.”
In response to the incidents, the Duterte regime has promised to reform the industry and bolster regulation.
Last month, the president signed into law anti-money laundering regulations for casinos and has ordered law enforcement to “to intensify the fight” against unlicensed gambling.
It remains to be seen whether the government will continue to turn a blind-eye to proxy gambling – the practice of overseas players using third parties to gamble for them in Philippine casinos.