ONLINE GAMBLING PURGE IN THE PHILIPPINES CONTINUES (Update)
Now PAGCOR lines up CEZA in its sights.
President Rodrigo Dutertes purge of online gambling in the Philippines looks about to widen following comments Friday by PAGCOR chief Andrea Domingo, who confirmed the company will be investigating and reassessing the activities of special freeport zones like CEZA that issue licenses to foreign online gaming firms.
The First Cagayan regulatory and licensing jurisdiction operates in the freeport, according to a report from the Reuters news agency.
Dutertes autocratic manner of wielding power could be challenged in the CEZA context; the online gambling operations licensed by freeports are mandated only to service non-Philippines players, raising the question of whether the presidents arbitrary decisions and pronouncements can be imposed.
However, thus far no-one has dared to step up with a legal challenge to the presidents bluntly expressed opinions and decisions on individuals and industries, and PAGCOR appears to comply on presidential pronouncements without question.
Its been an extraordinary fortnight for the industry in the Philippines which has seen online gambling denounced by the new President; major company Philweb crippled by the refusal of state-run PAGCOR to renew its license, and the resignation of chairman Roberto Ongpin after accusations that he was a corrupt oligarch.
Philwebs share price plummeted to all-time lows, presenting the spectre of the companys failure and the possible loss of 5,000 jobs as the crisis deepened.
Philwebs president, Dennis Valdes, has pledged to do everything possible to save the company, including applying for a new PAGCOR contract.
In related news, it appears that land casinos are also about to feel the pressure of political change in the Philippines, with the new head of PAGCOR, Andreas Domingo, announcing that the temporary tax breaks given to the casinos are to be withdrawn after two years of the benefit.
PAGCOR is reportedly about to communicate with land casino operators advising them that their tax break of just 5 percent on VIP table revenues is about to revert to 15 percent, and the 15 percent on mass market action is about to be returned to a 25 percent tax rate.