Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) senatorial candidate Win Gatchalian will be pushing for amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) to include casinos among the covered institutions if he wins a seat in the Senate.
“Amending the AMLA is long overdue. I fully agree that casinos and related businesses should be included in the list of covered institutions that would have to report suspicious transactions to the Anti-Money Laundering Council,” said Gatchalian, who is running for senator under the Partido Galing at Puso (PGP) of presidential frontrunner Grace Poe and leading vice presidential bet Chiz Escudero.
The issue of the exclusion of casinos in the AMLA has resurfaced following reports that around $81million in laundered funds have entered the country and found its way to three casinos that include Solaire, City of Dreams, and Midas.
Gatchalian has long been saying that casinos are among the institutions that are extremely vulnerable to money-laundering activities and should be placed under close supervision.
The Valenzuela City congressman maintained there is a need to upgrade the AMLA and subject it to much-needed and timely reforms to make it more compliant to international standards set by the world’s financial institutions and watchdogs.
“The government should maintain the country’s good standing with the international financial system by amending the AMLA. It’s about time that the AMLC be given additional powers over casinos to make sure that these can no longer be used in money-laundering activities,” explained Gatchalian.
Gatchalian said amending the AMLA is even made more urgent by the US State Department report citing the casino industry as a weak link in the Philippines’ effort to stop money laundering and terror financing. The assessment was contained in the State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.
In the report, regionally, organized crime groups such as Chinese triads have infiltrated casino operations and have facilitated prostitution, narcotics trafficking, loan-sharking and suspect junket and VIP gaming tours.
It is also said in the report “money laundering is a serious concern due to the Philippines’ international narcotics trade, high degree of corruption among government officials, trafficking in persons and the high volume of remittances from Filipinos living abroad.”
Gatchalian said there is also a need to revisit the congressional franchise being given to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), which acts as concurrent casino regulator and operator.
“There is a contradiction to the function of PAGCOR as both regulator and operator since as regulator, it issues licenses to privately owned casinos, which are now being used in money-laundering activities. As operator, PAGCOR can have its own casinos, which are also not covered by AMLA,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian noted that in past congressional hearings, PAGCOR has registered its disagreement to the inclusion of casinos among covered institutions under AMLA, saying it will have a negative impact on the gambling industry.
PAGCOR uniquely operates its own casinos in addition to serving as the industry’s overseer. It reported gross revenues equivalent to about $920 million for calendar year 2014. (R. Burgos)