CEZA cracks down on illegal gambling

Perseus Echeminada - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) has undertaken major reforms to eradicate illegal online gaming operations in the agency that pioneered interactive gaming jurisdiction in Asia.

CEZA administrator Raul Lambino said he has cancelled the registration of 164 business process outsourcing (BPO) firms that provided support services to offshore gaming operators.

And in a major move that fortified the agency’s role as regulator, Lambino said he has rationalized the grant of the master licensor agreements with the First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corp. (FCLRC) and the North Cagayan Gaming and Amusements Corp. (NCGAC).

The two master licensors, he said, have agreed to cancel their operations in Metro Manila and return to the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport in Santa Ana, Cagayan in compliance with the provisions of Executive Order 13.

Malacanang released the directive early this year to strengthen the fight against illegal gambling and clarify the jurisdiction and authority of government agencies in the regulation and licensing of gambling and online gaming facilities.

The separate supplemental agreements recently signed between CEZA and FCLRC and NGGAC would inevitably pave the way for the entry of new players, he said.

“With this move, we have now leveled the playing field,” said Lambino.

“This will allow new and more players to come in, which will mean greater revenue for the government—money that we could use to help support the social programs and projects of the President and help us build new infrastructure in CEZA.”

Lambino said that creating a highly competitive business environment in CEZA is a confidence-building measure that sends the message that no entity would get any special treatment by the agency.

In each of the supplemental agreements signed Nov. 20, it was provided that “regulatory functions and powers over all gaming operators, land-based and offshore, shall be the exclusive authority of CEZA.”

In removing the exclusivity clause of the license agreement issued to the two master licensors, CEZA retained First Cagayan as a “non-exclusive licensor for interactive gaming.”

CEZA would also authorize First Cagayan as licensor for land-based gaming after the latter shall have complied with all CEZA requirements for land-based casino operations.

CEZA retained North Cagayan as non-exclusive licensee of its land-based, online gaming and virtual games of chance and other-tourism related activities.

First Cagayan is also required to accelerate the development of the township project it had long committed, as well as the improvement and expansion of the cyberpark to boost the infrastructure facilities and internet connectivity for future locators.

CEZA for its part will look for strategic partners that would invest in hotels, condominiums, malls and theme parks and other amenities, like a golf course, for the township project.

In both supplemental agreements, it was provided further that CEZA will “consider and accept the offer” of companies as its other licensees provided they are not currently hosted, appointed or authorized by either licensors.


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