PAGCOR Helps Philippine Casinos Take The “Junk” Out Of Junkets

As the Philippines transitions from the Duterte Administration to the Marcos Administration, the gambling market has remained relatively quiet.

Outside of ongoing e-sabong debates behind closed doors (the pastime remains banned for now), it’s all been very business as usual.

In fact, the only item of note in the Philippine gambling industry these last several weeks has been PAGCOR’s recently issued junket guidelines for the country’s IRs.

On June 29, PAGOR published Regulatory Order No. RO-2022-06-001, outlining its updated position on the proper procedures land-based casinos must use in vetting their partner junket operators.

Titled the Casino Guide for a Fitness and Propriety Assessment for Junket Operators, the purpose of the document is to underscore both new and existing standards within the VIP junket market.

This, of course, comes in the wake of the Alvin Chau fiasco in Macau, which in turn has shifted the Asian junket focus from the world’s biggest casino district (i.e. Macau) to the world’s fastest-growing casino district (i.e. the Philippines).

For those of you out there unfamiliar with junkets, the term is defined as “an extravagant trip or celebration, in particular one enjoyed by a government official at public expense.”

Of course, in the casino market, junkets aren’t gambling excursions where high-level officials burn their constituents’ tax dollars on slot machines and table games.

In gambling, junkets are effectively casino destination services for wealthy VIPs and high rollers. If you’re familiar with the old concept of the “travel agent,” it’s that, only for gamblers.

In essence, junkets are gambling vacation packages that offer all-inclusive accommodation and casino services for those who wish to travel and play in small private groups. Junkets are VIP gambling tourism.

However, the junket market has long had an image problem – some deserved, and some not-so-deserved.

To combat the former – and to keep junkets operating on the up-and-up even as they come under attack elsewhere – the new guide form PAGCOR is a way for the regulator to inform casinos within Philippine borders exactly what they expect from any junket operations and partnerships.

PAGCOR assistant VP Dave Fermin J. Sevilla explains:

This guideline was established to aid the land-based casinos in their obligation to assess the fitness and propriety nature of its junket or chipwashing operators, its associates/agents/promoters, and applicants for junket operations. In order to conduct any business activity in licensed casinos, all persons responsible for the operations of junkets and/or applicants for junket operations must demonstrate that they are a ”fit and proper” person.

While the document is only about four pages long, we can summarize it this way:

Junket operators doing business in the Philippines must submit not only to initial assessments of fitness and accountability, but they must also submit to ongoing assessments of such for the life of their junket business involvement.

On the technical side, these operators are defined as anyone on a junket’s board of directions, anyone employed in a junket managerial capacity, all company officers, and any shareholders holding more than 20% of the junket’s stock.

For any junket to operate legally, none of the above persons can have criminal records.

To establish these individuals’ fitness to operate junkets in the islands, there are three overarching criteria casinos must consider:

  1. Reputation, Honesty and Integrity – Philippine casinos must undertake to determine “whether key individuals have been convicted on indictment of dishonesty, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering, terrorist financing, proliferation financing, theft, or financial crimes.”
  2. Competence and Capability as it Relates to Experience, Educational Background and Other Qualifications – Philippine casinos must ensure that junket operators and key persons “satisfy relevant training requirements…and demonstrate, by experience and training, that they are suitable to perform” in their official stated capacities.
  3. Financial Soundness – Philippine casinos must audit potential junket operators and key persons to guarantee they aren’t “subject to any judgment debt or award in the Philippines or elsewhere, that remains outstanding.” Further, junket operators must not have “filed for bankruptcy, been adjudged as bankrupt, been the subject of bankruptcy petition, or have been involved in proceedings relating to any of these.”

Basically, this means that to do business in the Philippines, casino junket operators, owners, and management staff can’t be criminals, frauds, or deadbeats.

Fair enough.

Now, if you gamble at offshore online casinos in the Philippines, this probably won’t be of any concern to you. In fact, even if you regularly gamble in person at Entertainment City IRs, chances are you aren’t going to be affected one way or another by this junket stuff.

Still, as a responsible Filipino gambler, it’s important that you keep yourself informed about all the legal and oversight developments at the forefront of the industry.

And you can do that by bookmarking us and checking out our news feed every week or so.