Philippines gaming regulator mulling privatization of its 41 casinos to raise $1.5B in govt. revenue

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) is considering selling the 41 casinos it operates in order to raise 80 billion pesos ($1.47 billion) in government revenue and to focus on its regulatory functions. The regulator’s proposal comes as the country’s 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, as reported by Reuters. “It is my hope we will be able to implement privatisation during my term.”

Tengco became the head of Pagcor last year after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assumed office in June. “We are the only regulatory [body] in the world that doesn’t only regulate; we also operate casinos. It’s very ironic that that is the case,” Tengco said separately after his speech. 

Pagcor 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.

According to the Chairman, selling the casinos, which are under a long-term lease with hotels and commercial space landlords, in bundles would generate around 80 billion pesos for the government. 

As per government data, gross gaming revenues in the regulator’s casinos almost doubled to 15.9 billion pesos ($292,944) last year. Total GGR, led by multi-billion dollar integrated casino-resorts, will likely hit the 256 billion pesos ($4.7 billion) pre-pandemic level by 2024 versus 214 billion pesos last year, Tengco said, according to the above-mentioned media.

The return of Chinese gamblers and the 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.