Philippines gaming regulator PAGCOR has received an official request from the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) to cancel the licenses of all casino operators on the island after it was reopened to tourists last week.
Local news outlet Business Mirror is reporting that PAGCOR chair Andrea Domingo has received a letter from the BIATF, signed by three leading BIATF officials, demanding the withdrawal of casino licenses on Boracay, including provisional licenses for future casino-resorts and those of casinos already in operation.
If implemented, the withdrawal would include the provisional casino license granted to Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group in March. Galaxy is planning a US$500 million integrated resort in partnership with Leisure and Resorts World Corp.
According to Business Mirror, the BIATF’s letter reads, “In view of the pronouncement of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte that no casino shall be allowed in Boracay Island, and in the light of the mandate given to it through Executive Order [EO] No. 5, Series of 2018, the [BIATF] requests that any and all gaming franchise/s and/or provisional license/s in Boracay Island shall be canceled by your good office.
“We shall be grateful for your timely cooperation on this matter for the protection of one of our nation’s most treasured islands.”
Aside from Galaxy, the cancellation would also hit Megaworld Corp’s Savoy Hotel operations and Hotel Soffia, while those already operating on Boracay include Movenpick Resort & Spa, Crown Regency Resort and Convention Center and Paradise Garden Resort Hotel and Convention Center.
While President Duterte expressed as early as April his opposition to the launch of any new casinos on Boracay, Galaxy Chairman Lui Che Woo stated in August that the company remained “very confident” of following through with its IR plans.
“When Galaxy negotiated with the Philippines government, our plans were to turn Boracay into an internationally acclaimed island,” he told CNBC at the time. “First, it will be low-density and second, we want to restore the beautiful natural scenery to how it was before.
“Our plans are for a low-density environment, like in the Maldives, instead of a big casino floor like in Manila or other places that are dense or busy. We want to lure high-end customers to come and enjoy and to help the Philippines lift its status. It is no longer the top-tier natural scenic place it once was due to pollution and sub-standard facilities.
“Gaming will actually be a small portion, we expect a few dozen tables, as this is not our focus for Boracay. We hope it’ll become a truly good tourism spot and return it to the beautiful island it once was. This is very different to what is being said out there.
“We’re waiting for the final decision from the government as to how it wants to develop Boracay. We will follow their directive to achieve their goal.”