IAG JANUARY 2017 WEB - page 4

inside
asiangaming
January2017
4
Gaming regulationadiceyaffair
G
aming regulation lies at the very heart of our industry.
Whether for good or bad, we rely on it to exist and to
provide aprecise, clearly defined frameworkwithinwhich
tooperate.
But regulation can be a volatile thing. And right now the gaming
industry right acrossAsia-Pacific is feeling that volatilitymore thanever.
Nowhere is there asmuch uncertainty heading into 2017 as the
Philippines, where controversial former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo
Duterte’s ascension to national leader has resulted in a drastic
change inFilipinogaming regulation.
Among Duterte’s first actions upon becoming President seven
months ago was to declare that local gaming technology provider
PhilWeb Corp – which had long supplied software to around 300
PAGCOR-run eGame cafes around the country – would not have its
license renewed.
It soon became apparent that Duterte, who has proven to be
very much a reactionary leader in his six months in the job, held a
personal gripe against PhilWeb chairman Roberto Ongpin, who he
described as “anoligarch thatmust bedestroyed.”
Also inDuterte’s sights is online gaming. Inhis very first cabinet
meeting after being sworn in last June, the 71-year-old said, “Online
gamblingmust stop– it’s out of control inPAGCOR. I donot want a
proliferationof gambling activities all over the country.”
Hesubsequentlyrevoked the licensesofaround200onlinegaming
sitesaswell asorderingPAGCOR to sell the 11 casinos it operates.
However, Duterte has confused the situation further by flip-
flopping on his gaming intentions on numerous occasions –
creating a nightmarish landscape for operators trying to map out
their future direction.
InAugust, PAGCOR announced that it had changeddirectionon
its blanket stance against online gaming and would instead issue
gaming licenses that exclusively targetedoverseas players. Licenses,
said PAGCOR boss Andrea Domingo, would be for six months and
includehigh feesaimedat recoupingaroundPHP 10billion inannual
revenues lost fromPresidentDuterte’s crackdownonofferingonline
gaming services to locals.
“We’re readying theapplication forms,”Domingo claimedat the
time. “It’s no longer the Filipinoswho are bettingbut foreigners.
“We don’t know yet how saleable it is. Theremight be no takers
or there couldbemany applicants.”
Then in December, Duterte came out with a renewed “zero
tolerance” stance, stating hewas, “ordering the closure of all online
gaming firms. All of them. They havenouse.”
Once again, the industry finds itself in a stateof flux.
Further south, Australian lawmakers are looking to close a
loophole in the country’s antiquated Interactive Gambling Act 2001
with the InteractiveGamblingAmendment Bill 2016.
The primary aim of the Bill is to target illegal online casinos as
well asprevent licensedonline sportsbooks fromoffering live in-play
betting–which is illegal inAustralia – via a “click to call” option that
effectively simulates aphone call.
However, one of the long-term complaints about the Interactive
Gambling Act 2001 is that it fails to effectively differentiate between
different online games –particularly online poker –whichnow looks
set to be driven out of the country completely. The world’s biggest
online poker site, PokerStars, recently shut down its Australian
offices in anticipationof themove andwill do the same for itsonline
services should theBill pass in the comingmonths.
But it’s not all bad for the gaming industry.
Takingusall by surpriseearly lastmonthwas thenews that Japan
was set to pass its “IR Promotion Bill” after more than a decade of
false dawns that hadmany wondering if casinos in the land of the
rising sunwould ever become reality.
TheBill did indeedpass,with thesubsequent “IRPromotionBill”
tobeput forward in2017 to set out theexact frameworkwithinwhich
the industrywill operate.
It just goes to show that the gaming industry is very much like
Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never know what you’re
going toget.
BenBlaschke
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