Lacson bill seeks to privatize Pagcor casinos

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) may have to give up its operation of casinos, if a bill filed by Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson is passed into law.

Senate Bill 1471 aims to address Pagcor’s “conflicting” roles of regulating and operating gambling casinos by having the agency focus on regulating the industry and giving up its role as operator of such establishments.

“In order to promote a level playing field in the gambling industry and avoid conflict of interests, Pagcor should cede its role as operator of all gambling and gaming activities. Through such manner, it can focus and put premium to its regulatory authority, which is its governmental role,” Lacson said in his bill.

[Download: Senate Bill 1471, Amending PD 1869 (The Pagcor Charter)]

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Under the bill, existing Pagcor casinos are to be privatized one year after the measure is passed. Proceeds from the sale of its assets shall be remitted to the Bureau of Treasury for appropriation by Congress.

Also, the bill seeks to consolidate Pagcor’s authority to regulate newly developed gaming and gambling activities, premises and technologies, including online gaming sites, while protecting minors and problem gamblers and making sure gambling and gaming will not be used for illegal activities like money laundering and terrorist financing.

The bill’s provision of unequivocal regulatory authority to Pagcor seeks to revitalize the operation of gaming operations to generate funds and implement priority programs, Lacson added.

Pagcor’s earnings will finance socio-economic development projects, with the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization program getting a five-percent share in Pagcor’s gross gaming revenues, less the franchise tax and 50-percent government share.

Meanwhile, the bill also seeks to prevent the licenses Pagcor issues to gaming operators from being used for criminal or illegal activities.

The Pagcor board shall hold an exhaustive investigation of applications for licenses, “so as to ensure that gaming is kept free of corrupt or criminal influence.” The licensee shall shoulder expenses for the investigation.

Also, the Pagcor board shall develop regulations to minimize the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing.

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