The Chairman and CEO of Philippines gaming regulator PAGCOR, Alejandro Tengco, said Wednesday that the agency is not in competition with the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) but seemingly questioned whether its fellow regulator was in a position to take on more responsibility.
Mr Tengco’s comments, made during a regulatory panel session at the IAG Academy Summit at Manila’s Newport World Resorts, follow a recent claim by CEZA CEO Katrina Ponce Enrile that PAGCOR had “failed” at POGOs given recent controversies around offshore gaming operators.
While he wasn’t asked specifically about that claim, Mr Tengco did note that the two organizations are not in competition with each other and may at times cooperate on certain issues.
“I do want to qualify that we are not competing with CEZA,” he said. “In some instances, if we have to closely work together, we do so but those operators licensed by CEZA are only operating within their jurisdiction. They (CEZA) have gaming regulatory functions that are restricted to that area they operate in.
“So there are opportunities where we cooperate and I was told in the past they had discussions with PAGCOR in matters related to gaming regulations where we worked together, but they have their zone and we have our bigger jurisdiction.”
The Philippines currently boasts four regulatory bodies for the gaming industry although Mr Tengco was quick to stress that only PAGCOR has national authority, with CEZA, the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO) and the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB) limited to their specific freeport areas.
He also described CEZA as “not yet ready” in regards to infrastructure.
“For example, CEZA often has problems with internet connectivity such as when we were being pounded recently by heavy rain for three weeks,” Mr Tengco said. “That’s why the licensees within CEZA are saying that there is much improvement that has to be done.”
Asked how he viewed other jurisdictions such as Australia and the United States where each state has its own regulator, Mr Tengco said he favored the current Philippines model whereby PAGCOR is the main regulator for gaming nationwide.
“The way I look at it, it’s more difficult to have multiple regulators within a jurisdiction … if you want to have a more efficient regulatory framework it is better to have one,” he said. “It is easier to handle any issues by having a wider reach rather than having different regulations in different jurisdictions.”
Nevertheless, the PAGCOR chairman said the agency would continue to push through major changes to its constitution, most notably the sale of all PAGCOR-run casinos.
“The current PAGCOR administration is just more than a year in office,” Mr Tengco explained. “This means we have more than enough time of accomplishing our goals of being more dynamic, more profitable and more focused as a purely regulatory corporation.
“Once we achieve this, you can bet that the Philippines will not only become the gold standard in Asian gaming but will also become one of the biggest gaming destinations in the world, as evidenced by the healthy pipeline of new integrated resorts and casinos that are going up all over the country today.”