Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) senatorial bet Win Gatchalian will push for the privatization of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the inclusion of casinos in the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) if he wins a seat in the Senate.
Gatchalian said it has long been a question how the PAGCOR was allowed to be an operator and regulator of casinos at the same time, which is anomalous to say the least.
“This is not only an issue of conflict of interest but an anomaly since PAGCOR being an operator of casinos is the one regulating itself. In effect, PAGCOR is competing with other casino operators in the country,” explained Gatchalian.
Gatchalian said PAGCOR should remain as a regulator of casinos and should forego its other role as operator to ensure that it will be objective in cracking the whip on casino operators which have grown in number in recent years.
“Its about time that we also privatize PAGCOR and just let the Bureau of Internal Revenue collect the taxes due to government and in this way, we are assured that the revenue from casinos and other forms of gaming go straight to the coffers,” Gatchalian pointed out.
The Governance Commission on Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GCG) had already submitted its recommendation to the Office of the President to privatize the commercial functions of PAGCOR.
The proposal to privatize the state gaming firm was among the 14 pending recommendations to either close down or privatize or even merge Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) for various reasons, such as redundancy, inefficiency and non-profitability.
Among the 14 GOCCs recommended to be abolished or privatized include some units of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), both of which are seen merging as ordered by President Aquino.
Other GOCCs that were recommended to be abolished or privatized are the Philpost Savings Bank, the Quedan and Rural Credit Guarantee Corp., the Armed Forces of the Philippines Retirement and Separation Benefits System, Duty Free Philippines Corp., and the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions.
Although PAGCOR has its own legislative charter, its privatization may be done through an executive order by the President upon the recommendation of the GCG as provided for by the GCG’s own legislative mandate to promote the financial viability of all GOCCs.
The issue of privatizing PAGCOR has come to the fore after at least two casinos — Solaire and Midas — were implicated in the alleged laundering of $81 million stolen by cyber criminals from the Bangladesh central bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
PAGCOR and several casino operators were the ones who lobbied in Congress for the non-exclusion of the casinos among the covered institutions of the AMLA. (Monica Cantilero)