Duterte imposes moratorium on new casinos

Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star
Duterte imposes moratorium on new casinos

Only applications filed with Pagcor before Duterte issued the moratorium will be processed. AP/John Locher

LONDON – President Duterte has ordered a moratorium on new casinos in the Philippines even as some of the country’s tycoons such as John Gokongwei Jr., Manuel Villar Jr. and Dennis Uy managed to make their foray into the lucrative gaming sector before the new order.

Gokongwei, the country’s second richest man, has already secured a license for his very first casino project while Villar and Uy managed to file their applications before Duterte ordered the moratorium on Jan. 11, said Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chair and CEO Andrea Domingo.

“The President told me on Jan. 11 to freeze (the processing of) new casinos because there are just too many now,” Domingo said on the sidelines of the 2018 ICE London, a global gaming technology event here which will run until Feb. 9.

As a result, Domingo said, Pagcor would stop issuing licenses for new casinos, at least until the market can take in new entrants again.

Only applications filed with Pagcor before Duterte issued the moratorium will be processed.

“After that, on Jan. 13, we are no longer accepting applications for new casinos,” Domingo told reporters.

Duterte said there is already a proliferation of new land-based casinos outside the 100-hectare Entertainment City in Paranaque.

“So we stopped for now to allow the market to mature,” Domingo said, adding that Pagcor would issue a memorandum to implement the president’s order.

Duterte’s moratorium comes just on the heels of the entry of some of the country’s tycoons in the lucrative gaming sector.

Gokongwei, for instance, is already seeking to develop a casino in Cebu’s South Road Properties, marking the conglomerate’s foray into gaming.

The Gokongwei-owned Universal Hotels and Resorts Inc., has submitted to the local government an unsolicited proposal to develop the 18-hectare Kawit property in the SRP into an integrated resort and casino facility.

Gokongwei, chairman of JG Summit Holdings Inc., visited the site in December last year.

“They intend to open in 2022,” Domingo said.

Villar, another tycoon, is also seeking to put up a casino in Dasmarinas, Cavite.

“He wants to put up a hotel and casino there. He wants to develop all 1,000 hectares of his property into a high-end development,” Domingo said.

Uy, the Davao-based businessman who is a known ally of President Duterte, also wants to put up a second casino. This time, it will be inside his new central business hub in Clark, Pampanga, Clark Global City, which is being developed by Uy’s Udenna Development Corp., Domingo said.

This is on top of Uy’s first casino project, the Emerald Resort and Casino, which he is putting up in Cebu.

Domingo said she agrees with Duterte’s position that there is already a proliferation of land-based casinos in the country.

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