The Philippines Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has been tightening the screws of the gambling industry in the Philippines. Some fine-tuning has indeed been needed, but some fear that the move may be a way for the autocratic regime of President Duterte to dabble a sticky paw in the vibrant segment of casinos.
Casinos, Line Up and Register
The AMLC has announced that all casinos will have to register with the body by the middle of August, which will allow the council to follow up close the activities of such gambling dens and investigate suspected foul play. However, the adoption of tighter regulation did not come from Duterte himself.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international entity, which advises country on how to better fight money-laundering and tax evasion, has made its recommendations to AMLC prior to the body’s own decision.
Meanwhile, five casinos have already stepped up, filing for a registration with the AMLC. The operators that have decided to disclose their activities as per the newly-formed regulations were: Okada Manila, Melco Crown, Resorts World Manila’s Travellers International Hotel Group, Widus Philippines, and lastly the Widus International Leisure property.
All five properties have significant stakes to keep their business in the open and avoid brushes with regulators. As their revenue continues to improve, the casinos are willing to pay any extra costs they need to retain their sustainable business model.
The Custodians Become Too Many
AMLC has also adjusted what falls within casino’s remit, at least partially. All casinos will have to report any transactions exceeding $100,000, but often close to that sum too, and vet it for money laundering.
All individuals registering who are suspected of past crimes and specifically crimes that have to do with finances will also have to undergo discreet screening and any relevant findings must be forwarded to the AMLC. Failing to that may lead to temporary shut-down of the business activities of the guilty party.
The Philippines have been known to be used as a global laundry machines for hot money. When thieves stolen $81 million from the US Federal Reserve Bank in New York, they managed to exchange the money through casinos in the country.
Following the money was pointless and it soon died out as soon as the culprits left the casinos where they have been gambling with them. No surveillance footage has helped identify the culprits nor find the money.
One of the reasons why this could happen, apart from technical savvy on the part of the hackers, is the fact that proxy gambling is still very much wide-spread all across the Philippines. This is the practice of allowing someone to bet on your behalf, which may shield the identity of a criminal party, which is oft the case.
AMLC’s stepping up is not the doing of Duterte whose ties to shady dealings are also well-documented, but rather the concern of a body tasked with eradicating criminal activities that harm the entire country.
The AMLC will have a long work ahead of it, but should it succeed – the benefits will be immense.