The potential privatization of Philippines gaming regulator PAGCOR’s casino operations appears to be back on the cards after the Department of Finance (DoF) called for the new administration to make its future plans clear.
Local media reported on Monday comments from Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, who said, “PAGCOR’s new leadership will have to make known their plans moving forward. They should resolve the seemingly conflicting roles as an operator and regulator.”
Diokno was speaking after PAGCOR announced its new Board of Directors last week, to be headed by Alejandro H. Tengco – a long-time friend of recently anointed Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
While the prospect of privatizing its commercial operations has long been discussed, Diokno said the time could be now given the government’s efforts to raise additional funding in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We would like the economy to grow … to recover,” he said. “If there [are] additional resources available to us, either through maybe new loans or maybe additional revenues coming from, say, privatization of some corporations, we would be willing to support a supplemental budget.
“If [we are] ready to implement projects, and we had the money, then better spend it now rather than a year from now.”
PAGCOR first announced in August 2016 that it intented to sell its 47 casinos under the order of former President Rodrigo Duterte, with the goal of raising funds towards the national budget.
It later stated that the sale of its licenses would begin in 2018 and in January of that year revealed it had singled out 17 individual casinos under its operation to be offered to interested parties under phase one of the sell-off.
However, then-PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Andrea Domingo told IAG shortly afterwards that the sale of its casino assets had been shelved because they were generating such strong cash flows.
PAGCOR casinos generated GGR of Php37.1 billion (US$660 million) in 2019.