Philippines gaming regulator PAGCOR says it will start accepting applications for new casino developments after a moratorium imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018 was lifted on Friday.
According to local media reports, the policy reversal is a response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with the Philippines government looking for ways to increase revenue. It could also breathe new life into a plan by Philippines gaming investor Leisure and Resorts World Corp (LRWC) and Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group to develop a US$550 million casino resort on Boracay.
“The President issued the moratorium in 2018 so … we didn’t accept any new applications,” said PAGCOR chair Andrea Domingo. “Now he has lifted [the moratorium] so we can once again receive applications for casino licenses.
A report by the Philippines Inquirer also quoted Domingo as saying, “From what I heard, this [new casino] is in Boracay,” suggesting the LRWC-Galaxy project could be back on the agenda.
The joint venture partners were granted a provisional casino license by PAGCOR in March 2018 with LRWC announcing soon after that it had purchased a 23-hectare site on Boracay upon which the resort was to be built.
However, Duterte – a vocal opponent of gambling during his early days as President – quickly quashed that idea by introducing the moratorium and then shutting Boracay down for six months to address environmental concerns.
He also halted a planned integrated resort development by Hong Kong-listed Landing International in Manila’s Entertainment City project just days after a ground-breaking ceremony was held on the site in August 2018.
While Duterte’s stance has now shifted, Domingo said Friday there were no plans to approve any new casino developments in Entertainment City beyond the three current IRs – City of Dreams Manila, Okada Manila and Solaire Resort & Casino – and Westside City Resorts World, due to open in 2022.
She did, however, leave the door open for new projects elsewhere, such as the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga and further south in Cebu.
IAG has approached Galaxy for comment on any potential resumption of its Boracay ambitions.