COVID-19 sees Philippine President Duterte change tone on online gambling

Once a staunch critic of all gambling activity, after canceling new casino developments in Boracay and Manila, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte now sees gambling as a necessary source of funds to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duterte set out his point in a meeting with political party officials on Wednesday, with Philippine News Agency noting that online gambling was one of the topics of discussion.

“Why did I allow the game? We do not have money. Now that we need the money, it really makes sense to encourage these activities, ”said the president.

“While it might not sound like disgusting but perhaps repugnant to some, you have to face it because we need the money for the country.”

Duterte canceled a plan to develop a $ 500 million casino in Boracay by Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment group in partnership with Leisure and Resorts World Corp after issuing an executive order revoking the casino licenses of all casino operators from the island.

Hong Kong-listed Landing International Development Ltd also entered into a 50-year land lease for the development of a US $ 1.5 billion integrated resort in the Entertainment City district of Manila, canceled by Duterte in August 2018. .

Despite this, the much-discussed Filipino Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry and more recently a PIGO program for casino operators to deliver online games to locals have been developed under Duterte’s oversight.

“They say I authorized the game during my time,” Duterte Wednedsay said.

“Right, it’s true. I do not deny it. Now I would like to take your mind back a few years. When I was newly installed as president, I said “I’m against gambling” and never allowed it.

A lack of government funding as the Philippines struggles to control COVID-19 has finally forced Duterte’s hand.

“When it comes to the pandemic, we are short of money. We have used all of our earmarked funds to prevent the viral virus from spreading across the country, ”he said.

Philippine gaming regulator PAGCOR, which by law contributes a large portion of its profits to government, reported a 49.1% drop in gaming operations revenue down 49.1% year-on-year. 1Q21 at 8.36 billion pesos ($ 172.8 million).

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