PAGCOR and Quezon Fight to Go To Supreme Court

After Vice Mayor of Quezon City attempted to restrict casino gaming, gambling regulator PAGCOR stepped in.

Vice Mayor of Quezon City Joy Belmonte attempted to enact an ordinance which would charge residents a fee of PHP1,500 to enter a soon to be built casino within the city, as well as, fees for online gaming. However, PAGCOR placed a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the ordinance citing that the city has no authority to regulate gaming. PAGCOR cites its authority given by Presidential Decree No. 771.

Months after PAGCOR stepped in via TRO to prevent Quezon from charging entrance fees, the two will have their day in court via a Supreme Court hearing.

However, many are concerned regarding the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision if they rule in favor of Quezon City. If the Philippine Supreme Court rules in favor of Quezon City’s City Ordinance 2773-201, this will restrict PAGCOR’s authority for gaming in the Philippines. If ruled in the city’s favor, PAGCOR could easily implement a permanent restraining order on the ordinance.

However, PAGCOR does not have absolute authority as a regulator for all of the gambling activities the Philippines, as there are economic regions permitted to regulate their own gaming, as well as, games which PAGCOR cannot regulate that are assigned to other regulatory entities. Nonetheless, many officials worry that if the Supreme Court favors Quezon City, multiple local governments will attempt to enact their own laws and bypass PAGCOR’s authority.

Vice Mayor Belmonte was quoted encouraging this type of behavior by saying to BusinessWorld, “If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the local government, then that is a victory for all local governments because that means all local governments can now regulate in their respective jurisdictions. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of PAGCOR, we will respect the ruling of the Supreme Court.”

Regardless, city officials will review the gaming ordinance pending the Supreme Court’s decision. Joy Belmonte will become Quezon City’s mayor on June 30th and intends to enact this ordinance before the Bloomberry Casino project can open its doors. Quezon City’s ordinance would also establish a Gambling Regulatory Advisory Council which would review casino permits and provide oversight for city venues in partnership with local police and PACOR.