Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Overhauls PAGCOR

Philippines President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has overhauled PAGCOR, the country’s gaming regulator-operator that provides critical revenue for the country’s government.

Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. swears in new PAGCOR executives and board members. PAGCOR is the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation. The agency regulates commercial casinos but also runs its own brick-and-mortar gaming venues. (Image: ABS-CBN)

Marcos succeeded Rodrigo Duterte at the end of June as the Philippines leader. Less than two months later, Marcos has swapped out the governance of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

With PAGCOR typically accounting for more tax revenue than any other government agency not named the Bureau of Internal Revenue — and the gaming agency considered a nation-building enterprise — it is customary for incoming presidents to appoint their own officials to spearhead the agency. In a notice posted to PAGCOR’s website today, the agency announced that Marcos recently swore in several new executives and board members.

Alejandro Tengco has succeeded Andrea Domingo as PAGCOR chair and chief executive, while Juanito Sañosa Jr. has replaced Alfredo Lim as PAGCOR president and chief operating officer. Marcos also reshuffled the PAGCOR board to include directors Gilbert Cesar Remulla, Francis Democrito Concordia, and Jose Maria Ortega.

PAGCOR reported gross gaming revenue of roughly PHP300 billion (US$5.35 billion) during Domingo’s leadership, which ran during Duterte’s six-year term from July 2016 through June 2022.

Marcos Father Formed PAGCOR

PAGCOR was formed in 1977 through a presidential decree issued by Bongbong’s father, the late Ferdinand Marcos Sr. The elder Marcos, who died in 1989 in exile, was a dictator who was accused of countless human rights violations and allegations of stealing billions of dollars from the country he claimed to have loved.

On his death bed, Marcos Sr. offered to return 90% of the fortune he stole from the Philippines in exchange for being buried next to his mother back in the Philippines. President Corazon Aquino rejected the plea, and Marcos Sr. was subsequently buried in Hawaii.

But Duterte in 2016 fulfilled Marcos Sr.’s wishes by relocating his remains to the Philippines’ national cemetery in Manila, much to the chagrin of opposition parties. The Marcos Sr. administration carried out martial law marked by great corruption and brutality against those who challenged his “constitutional authoritarianism.”

Almost four decades later, his son now reigns over the Philippines after a controversial election marked by substantial voter fraud claims allowed the Marcos name to regain power.

PAGCOR Challenges

As PAGCOR chair, Tengco will need to guide the gaming regulator through several pressing matters in the immediate future. In response to Macau greatly cracking down on VIP junket groups, a development that has resulted in many operators closing shop, PAGCOR under Domingo said last month that it too would be tightening its controls on trip organizers.

PAGCOR intends to place more regulatory responsibility on the casinos themselves than on the junket. However, PAGCOR before Tengco’s appointment made no public disclosures of plans to do away with VIP companies being allowed to partner with Manila’s four integrated casino resorts.

Equally as pressing is the ongoing saga regarding Okada Manila. Billionaire Kazuo Okada and the casino’s parent company that forced him out of its governance in 2017 amid graft allegations remain engaged in a legal quarry as to who is the rightful operator of the Manila integrated resort. PAGCOR was on-site in May when a raid led by Kazuo Okada of the casino’s corporate offices occurred.

The Philippines Supreme Court plans to review the intra-dispute over the coming months.

PAGCOR is also tasked with overseeing Filipino iGaming operators that cater to gamblers outside of the country, most specifically in China. China has made repeated calls on PAGCOR to prevent its Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) from accepting online players from the People’s Republic. Though Duterte ordered PAGCOR to disregard such pleas, numerous operators have exited the market.

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