by Chino Leyco
State-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) warned the national government is poised to lose P24 billion in annual revenues if all state-owned and -run casinos are sold to the private sector.
Amid calls for privatization, Pagcor Chairperson Andrea D. Domingo said that they along with the Department of Finance (DOF) should come up with a scheme that will allow the gaming regulator keep its P2 billion monthly income from casino operations.
“We have to figure out how we can still retain [that amount] because the income of the Pagcor owned and Pagcor operated casinos is P2 billion a month, or P24 billion a year, equivalent to about 40 percent of our total gross revenues,” Domingo said.
In 2016, Pagcor contributed P36.47 billion to the government’s “nation-building” programs, representing 66.23 percent of the gaming firm’s P55.06 billion gross income.
The Pagcor chief, however, assured that they are supportive of Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III’s privatization plan.
“We are for privatization because that’s what the DOF wants, so we’re not fighting them. We’re just figuring out a way how we can still retain that income after privatizing these casinos,” she said.
Without providing specific details, Dominguez said Pagcor has two schemes being considered to implement the sale of government’s casino assets.
“I’ve sent a very brief memo to the President [Rodrigo R. Duterte] regarding the other ways of doing it without losing the income, but it’s still in a very early stage and the details are not yet there. There’s still alot of works to be done,” Domingo said.
She disclosed the DOF initially wanted Pagcor’s licenses and facilities bundled together before the government puts these assets on the auction block.
“Initially, what they want is sell off and then get the whole thing in lump sum,” Domingo said, referring to the DOF which currently conducts a study on how to price the casino assets.
“The thing is, it must be to the best interest of the government or else we will be having problems with the law,” she said. “I have to be very very sure that everything is done legally, and advantageous to the government.”
“This is the reason why we’re looking into several options on how to actually privatize and assure the income we’re getting now, and assure the people — 9000 of them — that they will not be affected adversely,” said Domingo.