PAGCOR chairman reaffirms shift to regulatory role, announces new framework for POGOs

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has reaffirmed its intention to assume a purely regulatory role, instead of operating as both a regulator and an operator, as it currently does.

Chairman and CEO Alejandro H Tengco stressed PAGCOR’s commitment to shifting its focus in a keynote speech at the Asian IR Expo and Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia 2023 in Macau, in which he also said the regulator will be implementing various reforms and measures to combat illegal gambling activities.

“In view of PAGCOR’s current business model [with] the agency assuming a dual role of regulator and operator, its operations have been the subject of scrutiny by key decision-makers and major gaming industry players, who see the agency as having an unfair advantage over its licensees,” he said, as reported by Macau Business.

“In response to this, the privatization of our casino operations is now at the forefront of our master plan, with PAGCOR shifting its energy towards a purely regulatory role, as the government seeks ways to improve efficiency, profitability, and service quality. PAGCOR will be able to avoid the complexities of running two different shows. It can also streamline its processes and create more revenues that will fund more high-impact government projects.”

A timetable or details about the plan have yet to be provided, although earlier this year PAGCOR said it aimed to raise about PHP80 billion ($1.47 billion) by privatizing its casino operations. Tengco also said that, before this occurs, PAGCOR would upgrade its self-operated venues, including modernizing the IT and cybersecurity infrastructure, upgrading over 3,000 electronic gaming machines across the casinos, and updating the PAGCOR Technical Standards for Electronic Gaming Machines.

PAGCOR to discourage illegal gambling

During the G2E speech, and in regards to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs), Tengco pointed out that in the second quarter of this year, PAGCOR discovered that several registered companies used their licenses and accreditations as a cover-up in the conduct of illegal activities, including cryptocurrency investment. 

“This became a massive blow to the industry,” he stated. “Seeing that the current framework has become a means to coddle various illegal activities, we have decided to put all existing licensees and service providers under a probationary status. They will all have to reapply under a new framework.”

As part of PAGCOR’s aim to strengthen its regulatory functions, Tengco said its management is committed to combating the proliferation of illegal gambling and other social illnesses “by continuously coordinating with various law enforcement agencies.”

We shall undertake this painstaking process to weed out the unscrupulous companies and individuals using the PAGCOR license for illegal activities, tainting the name of the entire industry and most especially the Philippines,” Tengco stated.

In response to the rise in illegal activities, a new regulatory framework for POGOs is underway. “As of now, we are studying the topic… We’re coming out with a new guideline and structure, and hopefully, everybody will be able to comply with it,” Tengco said in response to journalists’ questions, as per Macau Business.

Other regulatory measures PAGCOR is exploring involve the inclusion of e-sports in its allowed game offerings with measures and controls to restrain minors from betting. PAGCOR also intends to create regulatory frameworks for online poker operations and explore the possibility of regulating other aspects of overseas gaming operations.