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Pagcor begins switch to “purely regulatory” role

| By Robert Fletcher
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) is to transition to a “purely regulatory” body, in a move that is set to lead to the privatisation of its gambling operations.
Pagcor Q1

Pagcor CEO Alejandro Tengco announced the strategy last week, saying the decision will help to “level the playing field”. Tengco also said that this will allow for future growth and viability among other operators.

Pagcor currently operates the Casino Filipino chain of casinos, with eight properties active across the country. The body in July also announced plans to enter the online gambling market with the launch of a new website. Casinofilipino.com is due to go live in Q1 of 2024.

This is in addition to playing the role of regulator in the Philippines, overseeing the market and having responsibility for issuing sanctions over unlicensed and illegal activities. 

Confirmation of the switch comes after Tengco hinted at such a move earlier in the year. At the time, Tengco said he intended to spin off the corporation’s casino business to a private bidder. He also spoke of plans to lengthen the body’s reach and continue expanding its nation-building programmes.

These plans were repeated in July when Tengco said the move would “avoid the complexities of running two different shows”.

In his most recent speech, Tengco said Pagcor hoped to complete the transition by 2025.

“We have started preparing for this transition in earnest,” Tengco said. “We’re starting where it matters most – within Pagcor itself. We certainly know our potentials and capability to become the gold standard in the Asian gaming scene.”

Tengco warns of impact to Pagcor staff

Tengco added that the switch to a purely regulatory role could impact staff. He stopped short of discussing job losses and instead said that plans are being made to avoid displacement, in particular at the casinos that will be privatised.

“We have been going around the country during the past few months, holding town hall meetings with our employees,” Tengco said. “We tell them there is no reason to worry because we have plans in place to mitigate, if not totally avoid, any personnel displacement.

“You will be surprised to know how people react to our plans and how they express their trust in our process.”

Tengco also said Pagcor is making changes in its corporate structure, business processes and procedures to make it more responsive and competitive as a regulator.

Transition plans include moving into a single corporate office as well as modernising existing casinos. Tengco added that Pagcor intends to make assets more attractive to potential buyers.

New rules for offshore gambling

The announcement comes after Pagcor in August set out a new regulatory framework for offshore gaming licensees. This came into effect in July and forms part of inter-agency efforts to tackle illegal offshore activities in the country. 

Licensees and service providers are now being declared probationary. They needed to re-apply for approval from Pagcor to continue operating in the country before yesterday’s (17 September) cut-off date. 

Operators and providers that have been operating illegally will not be considered for a new licence.

Tengco embroiled in missing performance bond case

Amid the changing face of Filipino gambling, news broke this month of Tengco’s links to a case related to a missing performance bond in July 2022.

Local media reports are linking Tengco and other current and former Pagcor personnel to the alleged disappearance of a performance bond. The bond is worth PHP75m (£1.07m/€1.24m/$1.32m) and was posted by an e-sabong company.

Reports say charges have been filed by Joaquin Sy, chairman and chief finance officer of Kamura Highlands Gaming and Holdings. Kamura is licensed by Pagcor to offer online and remote betting on live cockfighting matches and events.

Tengco has pledged to investigate claims over the missing performance bond.

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