Rodrigo Duterte reverses stance on gambling

President Rodrigo Duterte appears to have changed his stance on gambling, suggesting it could help raise necessary funds for the government amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Duterte has previously been a staunch critic of gambling, having quashed new casino developments in Boracay and Manila.

Online gambling expansion was among the topics of discussion when the president met with with political party officials at the start of July. “When it comes to the pandemic, we’re running out of money. We used up all our reserved funds to contain the viral virus from rampaging all throughout the country,” he stated. “Now that we need money the most sensible thing is really just to encourage those activities.”

The move represents a significant u-turn by the Duterte administration and may also open the door for the expansion of the country’s land-based industry. The president nixed a proposed $500m casino development in Boracay by Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group in partnership with Leisure and Resorts World Corp back in 2018, issuing an Executive Order cancelling the casino licences of all operators on the island.

Duterte also cancelled a deal granting Landing International Development a 50-year land lease in Manila’s Entertainment City precinct in August 2018. The Hong Kong-listed firm had planned to build a $1.5bn integrated resort at the site.

Pagcor reported that income from gaming operations fell 49.1 percent year-on-year in Q1, dropping to PHP8.36bn ($172.8m). The regulator-cum-operator contributes a significant portion of its profits to the National Treasury.