Duterte Threatens Bingo and Gambling in the Philippines

The Philippines gambling industry faces new headwinds as President Rodrigo Duterte is preparing to take an even tougher stance on it. Amid new calls for businesses to come under the blows of legislation, limiting the scope of their operations is the least of their worries.

President Duterte on the Trail of Gambling

Hardliner and far-right politician, the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte has issued a new threat to the gambling industry in the country. Calling it “suppression”, Mr. Duterte is now taking a very pronounced aim at every gambling, and specifically – bingo, operator, in what appears to be an attempt to sweep them under the rug.

Talking about the specifics, Mr. Duterte used bingo as an example, saying that the activity will be brought into check and “suppressed”. He also made it clear that he didn’t intend to observe any legal framework and whether an operator had actually been issued a license from the government.

A later clarification came on Thursday, when Salvador Panelo, the President’s legal advisor and spokesperson, commented that President Duterte couldn’t have possibly meant sweeping the entire business as such. His most likely intent, Mr. Panelo specified, was the illegal online gambling industry, which had been the origin of much trouble.

With this in mind, it’s worth noting that the Philippines have been used as a hub of laundering of stolen money, particularly in casinos where KYC practices and checks have been weak. The anti-gambling stance is clearly toughening, but Mr. Duterte has an expressed penchant for making popular moves that lend credibility to his rule without observing laws.

At the end of 2016, Mr. Duterte also issued a dire warning towards the industry, saying that all online gambling businesses would be closed effective immediately. His efforts continued well into 2017 when he started buffeting the multi-jurisdictional licensing scheme the country had been accustomed to.

Targeting Specific Activities

Targeting Bingo in particular, as per his statement earlier this week, is no different than his belligerent talk against iGaming operations and very possible targets PhilWeb, which is an online gambling company that operates in the Philippines.

Mr. Duterte also commented that a lot of the casinos were associated with elements of the underworld which put them in a position of power preying on customers who couldn’t defend themselves.

After his 2017 overhaul of legislation, the President created the so-called Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) agency, which seems to be reporting to the man himself directly. According to new information, the PAGCOR has been ordered to now take an aim on all license that it has issued and cancel them.

Acting on a whim has been the known signature style. Still, the President seems to have the legal backing to support his actions. Quite simply, the licenses issued by PAGCOR are not as much of a binding framework as they are the state’s “willingness” to support online gambling business for as long as it sees fit.

With this in mind, revoking the gambling licenses is not really an act of breaking any existing and binding legal agreement, but just a change in the general direction of the country. The drawback is that operators may have already allocated funds to expand their offers.

This however is very likely something Mr. Duterte doesn’t care about.

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