Sale discussions back on the table

Philippines: Department of Finance to potentially push for privatization of PAGCOR's casinos

Casino Filipino in Angeles City, Philippines.
Reading time 1:45 min

The Philippines gaming regulator’s casino operations could see potential privatization, according to new local media reports. The Department of Finance (DoF) has called for the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation’s –PAGCOR– new administration to make its future plans clear, hinting it could push for a sale of its gaming venues.

“PAGCOR’s new leadership will have to make known their plans moving forward. They should resolve the seemingly conflicting roles as an operator and regulator,” said on Monday Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, according to local media. His comments follow the appointment of PAGCOR’s new Board of Directors earlier this month, to be headed by Alejandro H. Tengco. He is replacing Andrea Domingo, who led the agency in the past six years.

A potential sale of the regulator’s commercial operations has long been in discussion, but Diokno said this could finally be the time to make that move effective, as the government focuses to raise funding post-pandemic. During a recent House of Representatives deliberation for the 2023 budget, he noted authorities would be aggressive in their privatization efforts.

“We would like the economy to grow and recover. If there are additional resources available to us either through new loans or additional revenues coming from the privatization of some corporations, we will be willing to support a supplemental budget,” Diokno said, according to The Philippine Star. “I think we have not done that for the longest time. If we are ready to implement projects and we have the money, then we better spend it now or a year from now.”

Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno.

Plans calling for PAGCOR to sell its 47 casinos were first unveiled in 2016, under the order of then-President Rodrigo Duterte, in an effort to bolster the national budget. The sale was later reported as commencing in 2018, with 17 casinos to be offered as part of a first phase, but these efforts were ultimately shelved at the time. While the plans resurfaced as a potential way to repay the government’s debts incurred during the pandemic, they never materialized.

According to a report by Business Mirror, Department of Finance officials said the proceeds from the privatization of the PAGCOR assets would offset potential revenue losses from the sale. “In the short and medium term, there will be no revenue loss because of privatization proceeds,” Diokno noted. “The new leadership should consider the worthiness of their move appropriate to their role.”

New PAGCOR Chairperson and CEO Alejandro Tengco was appointed by President Ferdinand Marcos himself last week, with whom he reportedly has a long-standing friendship. PAGCOR casinos generated Php 37.1 billion ($660 million) in GGR in 2019.

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