Business & Economy

Gov’t to sell Pagcor casinos

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YOKOHAMA, Japan -- The government will sell the casinos of state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) before yearend in line with moves for the state-run firm to stick to its regulatory mandate and let go of commercial functions, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said.

Dominguez noted that Pagcor-run casinos could no longer compete with private-led casinos.

“If our casinos were to replace a glass that’s broken, I think it will take ages as compared to what Okada and Solaire can do. It’s better [for the government] to move out of [casino operations],” Dominguez told reporters on the sidelines of the Asian Development Bank’s 50th annual meeting.

“And secondly, of course, it will remove the conflict of interest when you are the regulator as well,” Dominguez added.

The finance chief said the casinos’ licenses as well as facilities would be bid out before the end of the year. 

Feelers from firms

Dominguez said the Privatization Council was studying how to price the casino assets.

So far, the government has yet to receive feelers from firms that may bid for Pagcor’s casinos, he said.

“Personally, I haven’t gotten [offers] because they haven’t set out the terms of the privatization. You have to set out the terms, then people will come. Of course, we will make it attractive since we do want to raise the revenues from this and remove the conflict [on interest] that’s ongoing and existing,” Dominguez said.

Pagcor operates 46 casino properties nationwide and is required by law to give half of its annual gross earnings to the Bureau of the Treasury. These funds are used in community and social projects of the government. 

Conflicts of interest

President Duterte had told Pagcor last year that it had to privatize its casinos to raise funds for state coffers. It followed concern from private casino operators who suggested that there might be possible conflicts of interest as Pagcor was both regulator and operator.

Pagcor is one of the biggest money-making companies owned by the government. In the first three months of this year, Pagcor recorded a 26.75-percent jump in year-on-year net income to P1.3 billion. It reported gross income from gaming operations of P14 billion compared with P11 billion in the same period in 2016.

Pagcor paid a total of P7.37 billion in gaming taxes and contributions to the government in the first quarter of 2017. Pagcor Chair Andrea Domingo attributed the increased profit to the effects of an improving market and newly implemented in-house efficiency measures. -

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