Money laundering won’t be easy in Pagcor casinos
- Des Ferriols () - June 5, 2006 - 12:00am
Tight operating regulations in the country’s casinos make it difficult for criminal elements to use them for money laundering, gaming officials said over the weekend.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) has agreed to cooperate with the Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in the government’s anti-money laundering campaign but officials said it was unlikely for syndicates to go through casinos to launder money.

PAGCOR president Butch Francisco said that unlike in most countries where gambling is allowed, casinos in the Philippines.

were structured to create a paper trail for anyone coming in to gamble.

According to Francisco, casino clients were required to go through a processing point where their identities are checked before they are allowed to exchange cash or credit for casino chips.

"Our casinos are not like those in other countries where anyone can just walk in and play," said Francisco. "We have a registration process and clients have to have their pictures taken."

The same process is applicable to both foreign and local clients, Francisco said, although he added that foreigners normally go through agents that make the arrangement for them.

Francisco said casinos normally have their own client profiling system, adapting similar know-your-client principles used by banks on bank clients and borrowers.

Under the law, Francisco said there were already a number of prohibitions against specific persons who are not allowed into casinos.

Government officials, military personnel, law enforcement personnel and minors, for example, were prohibited from gambling in casinos.

According to Francisco, PAGCOR has been in discussions with AMLC to facilitate the reporting of what the council would categorize as suspicious transaction but PAGCOR-operated casinos were participating only on a voluntary basis.

"To require our full participation would entail amendments to the Anti Money Laundering Law because we are not a covered institution," Francisco said. "So we are doing this on a voluntary basis."

Gambling is technically prohibited under Philippine laws but the government operates casinos and gaming facilities under the PAGCOR, the third largest revenue-generating government agency.

Casinos have been singled out by the Financial Action Task Force on Anti Money Laundering (FATF) as one of the most serious potential risk still unregulated under the AMLC.

The AMLC had persuaded PAGCOR to report suspicious transactions involving casinos to expand the monitoring net against dirty money.

According to AMLC executive director Vicente Aquino, PAGCOR officials and personnel were also scheduled to undergo rigorous training on the detection of money-laundering operations as well as the process for reporting suspected operators. 

"They’re going to do it on a voluntary basis," Aquino said.

Aquino said casinos and other gambling outlets were easy targets for money laundering. "People with dirty money could just come in with cash, exchange it for casino chips, play a little and when they leave, they get checks," he explained. "At that point, that cash had been laundered."

The AMLC has been looking into the operations of casinos to verify suspicions that they were being used to launder cash from illegal activities.

Sources from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the AMLC confirmed that the mechanics for monitoring was being drawn up to examine the cash operations of casinos, most of which are owned or partly owned by the government itself.

AMLC ANTI MONEY LAUNDERING ANTI MONEY LAUNDERING COUNCIL ANTI MONEY LAUNDERING LAW AQUINO BANGKO SENTRAL BUTCH FRANCISCO CASINOS FRANCISCO MONEY
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