Pagcor casinos have safeguards vs money laundering — AMLC
- Des Ferriols () - July 14, 2006 - 12:00am
The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) said the casinos operated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) have sufficient safeguards against money laundering.

The AMLC said it has examined the processes and procedures in PAGCOR casinos which anti-money laundering officials earlier said could be used as channels for laundering dirty money.

The Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) and the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) have expressed serious concern over the openness of casinos as a channel for dirty funds.

According to AMLC executive director Vicente Aquino, however, PAGCOR has already instituted processes that establish the identity of casino patrons as well as create the paper trail for money going in and coming out of the gambling establishments.

"Their procedures appear to be effective, transactions are recorded and there is a process that establish the identity of people who go into casinos," Aquino said.

"On the whole, we are very happy with them," Aquino said. According to Aquino, the AMLC was also convinced that PAGCOR establishments were strictly implementing provisions of the law that prohibit government and military officials from going into casinos.

PAGCOR officials said 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.

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 are 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.

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