Duterte Changes Stance on Gambling Due to COVID-19 Impact on The Philippines

Once a fierce opponent of gambling activities, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has changed his position to urge wagering in order to attract funds after the devastating impact of the pandemic.

Duterte Softens Tone on Gambling 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has softened his tone with regards to gambling in the country due to the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. During a meeting with political party officials on Wednesday, he said gambling should be encouraged within the country as a source of funds to address the health crisis and recover the money lost due to the pandemic.

A transcript released by Duterte’s office on Wednesday reads:

“Go ahead and gamble. Now that we need money, the most sensible thing is really just to encourage those activities.”

Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine President

Duterte acknowledged that although his stance might sound controversial to some people, the change was necessary in order to secure funds for the country. Duterte said that the available reserves were used to contain the virus from rampaging throughout the country.

Duterte had previously pronounced himself harshly against gambling activities and even overturned new casino developments in Boracay and Manila. In 2016, he targeted online gambling operations and ordered regulators to revoke all licenses saying that the funds would go for health services for the poor.

In 2017, Duterte described gambling as a threat to society that breeds corruption, and mobilized the police and the National Bureau of Investigation against the illegal activities. The operation came after allegations that Chinese junket tycoon Jack Lam tried to bribe Philippine officials to allow him to operate an illegal online casino. The order also banned online gaming operators from serving customers outside the “territorial jurisdiction of the licensing authority,” according to the order.

Duterte Changes Gambling Laws to Impose Higher Taxes

Last month, the Philippine President urged lawmakers to pass a bill that would require POGOs to pay 5% on gross gaming revenue and would increase the income tax for employees to 25%.

In 2018, Duterte canceled the famous US$500-million casino project by Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group in partnership with Leisure and Resorts World Corp in Boracay. In the same year, Duterte suspended a 50-year land lease deal for the development of a US$1.5-billion integrated resort in Manila’s Entertainment City.

Recently, however, the country has become more welcoming to domestic online gambling. Earlier this year, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) gave the green light to Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment to enter the online gaming market.

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