MANILA— The Philippines’ gaming regulator is considering selling all 41 casinos it operates to raise P80 billion ($1.47 billion) in government revenue and in order to focus on its regulatory functions, the agency’s chief said on Tuesday.
The proposal by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) comes as the country’s freewheeling gaming sector recovers from the pandemic, with the return of Chinese high rollers and the opening of new gambling hubs.
“We are seriously considering privatization of all Pagcor-operated casinos,” Pagcor Chairman Alejandro Tengco told the ASEAN Gaming Summit. “It is my hope we will be able to implement privatization during my term.”
Tengco’s term runs until 2028, in line with the presidency.
Pagcor, a regulator but also an operator of 41 casinos, first announced its intention to sell casinos in 2016 to beef up the government’s budget, a plan shelved two years later.
Last year, however, lawmakers and the finance minister pushed the new Pagcor administration to revive privatization plans.
Selling the casinos, which are under long-term lease with hotels and commercial space landlords, in bundles would generate around 80 billion pesos for the government, Tengco told reporters.
Gross gaming revenues (GGR), the amount players wager minus winnings, in the regulator’s casinos almost doubled to 15.9 billion pesos last year, government data showed.
Total GGR, led by multi-billion dollar integrated casino-resorts, will likely hit the 256 billion pesos pre-pandemic level by 2024 versus 214 billion pesos last year, Tengco said.
The return of Chinese gamblers and completion of new gaming properties will boost the gaming sector this year and in 2024, Tengco said.
The Philippine gaming industry has attracted foreign and domestic firms to set up sprawling casino-resorts, creating tens of thousands of jobs in the past decade. Gambling and betting activities employed roughly 27,000 workers in 2020, according to government data.
The Southeast Asian nation’s gambling scene, which includes a smaller version of the Las Vegas gaming strip, attracts high rollers from countries like China, Japan and South Korea.
($1 = 54.39 Philippine pesos)
—Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davies