- Earlier this year the future looked bleak for online casino operators in the Philippines
- A change in stance by authorities now means that relocation and disruption is unlikely
In April, the Philippines Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) announced its plans to ban online casino operators. However, it would appear that it is now changing its mind on that front.
The organisation has agreed to a compromise that, rather than simply ban the practice, it will instead enforce stricter rules for online casinos to ensure that they adhere to local laws.
Online operators had planned to relocate
Originally, PEZA was concerned about gambling not being in line with its values. As such, the organisation would have banned local owners of building in the country’s bustling economic zone from accepting new leases or renewing rental contracts with online casino firms. This would have had the knock-on impact of effectively forcing more than 100 online gambling operators to relocate form the nation.
Fortunately for the country’s casino and gambling market, as well as for betting fans, the latest development means that this is no longer the case. Charito Plaza, director general of PEZA, has confirmed that she is now open to the idea of hosting online gambling firms on PEZA-accredited property such as the economic zone.
‘A good compromise’
Plaza’s main stipulation to that agreement is that the firms must obtain a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) license from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
Even if an operator has already received a license from the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO) and Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), a Pagcor license will be necessary for gambling firms to be allowed to take up residency in PEZA buildings.
“It’s already a good compromise because of course we want to support the program of the President,” says Plaza. “It is going to be a political decision. While we want to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s program to legalize online gaming, let us put it properly and orderly.”
The catch, however, appears to be that ultimately the choice will rest with the individual building owners. They will have to ask PEZA for permission to allow an online casino company to rent the property, provided that the firm has a Pagcor license. Despite that sticking point, Pagcor expects that licensed online gambling sites will raise P3 billion in tax revenues for the government his year, thus marking a brighter outlook than that of earlier this year.
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