After years of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s harsh stance on gambling, it seems the politician has had a change of heart – conveniently just before the elections.
The usually fiery Philippine President has announced a change in policy towards gambling. In a recent statement, the President declared during a campaign on May 11th, 2019 that “gambling-gambling, I will not meddle with it anymore, just do not enter. I cannot control it, really… I will let you in, but not extortion or drugs…I am not trying to encourage you… I cannot stop it anyway and I know I am lacking”. Many have taken the President’s statements to mean that the gambling industry in the Philippines will once again be able to flourish and expand like legal online Philippine casinos.
The President was responsible for shutting down future casino projects in various parts of the Philippines such as Boracay, Manila, and Quezon City. In the past, he was recorded saying “I will not allow gambling… I hate gambling.” President Duterte even ordered a temporary halt on the issuance of new licenses by PAGCOR.
The Philippine midterm elections are May 13th, and many are assuming President Duterte’s new stance on gambling may be to support his allies and make his party look more appealing to voters. Referring to his earlier statements just a few days before the midterms, President Duterte said that favorite and popular Filipino games like Jueteng, Tongits, and Hantak are difficult to prohibit and thus admitted to giving up on this type of regulation. Manila Times was the first to report on the President’s change of heart regarding gambling.
PAGCOR’s department head, Andrea Domingo, was accredited for some of this development by begging President Duterte to back off on his strong anti-gambling stance especially regarding domestic expansion. However, the change has yet to be confirmed as there have been no direct policy adjustments made after these comments were delivered.
PAGCOR gave the Philippine Government over $160 million in net tax revenue in Q1 of 2019 as per prior agreements to share 50% of the regulator’s profits with the federal government. Duterte ordered PAGCOR to dissolve their ownership over several casinos earlier in the year and have them operate solely as a regulator, but after reviewing the profitability of PAGCOR to the Government, Duterte’s retracted his directions.