The mercurial president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, appears to blow hot and cold on internet gambling, and has again been sending mixed signals to the industry despite his country’s pre-eminence as an Asia-facing licensing jurisdiction.
Our readers will recall that soon after coming to power two years ago Duterte caused chaos in the industry with a strong anti-online gambling posture, threatening to shut the industry down.
That was followed by an apparent rethink, when the president said that provided online gambling operators they paid their taxes and stayed way from schools and churches.
The industry settled down, with POGO licenses granted and the regulator Pagcor putting new systems in place.
But this week Duterte went back on the attack during an awards ceremony in Malacañang, saying that online gambling must be “suppressed” because it was a magnet for criminal activity, including kidnap-for-ransom and extortion.
The president pointed in general terms to kidnappings which he claimed took place in hotel rooms, perpetrated by “kidnappers, extortionists, scalawag policemen” who threatened families with the death of their loved ones if they did not pay ransom.
The president’s spokesman and legal counsel Salvador Panelo was again left to “clarify” Duterte’s provocative rhetoric, a practise in which the president’s advisor has become increasingly adept, explaining that the president meant to say that he would crack down on “illegal” online gambling firms only.
“As far as I know, that refers only to illegal online gambling,” said Panelo.
Panelo may have difficulty in explaining away other comments made by the president at the Malacanang event in which he said his government has no problem ignoring contracts with casinos and companies behind gambling establishments.
“To hell with the contract, I told you I do not want gambling, period,” Duterte said this week in an apparent reference to land casino resort issues on the idyllic island of Boracay where the president has vehemently opposed plans by Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. to build a large resort casino.