Gambling load
By Conrado Banal
Philippine Daily Inquirer
February 24, 2018 at 5:50 am

Word is out that one of the giants in Congress wants to stir up the gambling business in this country by creating a super body to oversee it, thus becoming the lord of all gambling lords.

That is, by introducing “legal” gambling—or, in short, state-sponsored.

Anyway, lawmakers from both the House of Representatives and the Senate are already whispering about the proposal to consolidate under one body the supervision of casino gaming, lotteries, horse racing, cockfighting and betting in professional sports like basketball and boxing.

At present, each of those activities are under different government entities, namely Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Philippine Racing Commission and Games and Amusements Board (GAB), although they are all directly under the Office of the President.

Gambling in this country is big business—perhaps amounting to P700 billion a year.

Note that the casinos under Pagcor are seen to hit a gross revenue of P300 billion this year, the illegal numbers games jueteng with yearly take of more than P70 billion, and horse racing at P8 billion a year, even minus the bets taken by illegal “bookies.”

The biggest take of course comes from the national pastime sabong (cockfight), which is supposedly under the supervision of GAB, now headed by former Palawan governor, Abraham Mitra.

How much money goes around in sabong nationwide, the GAB seems to have absolutely no idea.

One study nevertheless put the total number of sabong venues in the country at more than 2,500 stadiums, holding fights of more than 30 million a year.

With bets of only P10,000 per cockfight, the yearly amount involved in this “pastime” could easily reach P300 billion.

Just exactly how much the government could possibly get as its share in the revenue from such an enormous load of gambling is something that the guys in the Department of Finance perhaps ought to study.

Anyway, casino gaming seems to be the only gambling activity that is really under close scrutiny in this country.

Last year, for instance, news reports feasted on the apparent financial scandal in the casino-hotel complex called Okada Manila, located there at the 44-hectare Entertainment City of Pagcor in the reclaimed area along the Manila Bay.

The complex took its name from Japanese gaming tycoon Kazuo Okada.

It so happens that his own children ousted him from their family corporation, Okada Holdings, which is the great grandfather of the Okada Manila complex.

Okada Holdings is the majority owner of Universal Entertainment, which is a part owner of Tiger Resort Asia that, in turn, owns Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment that is the parent company of Okada Manila.

His removal from the family corporation triggered his ouster from the other companies, including Okada Manila.

In other words, although it still bears his name, he does not own the casino hotel complex here.

Now, state-owned gambling corporation Pagcor actually sponsored his Manila project. When, in 2016, the project suffered long delays, Pagcor just kept quiet.

On the other hand, Universal Entertainment, being publicly listed in the United States, investigated the project for possible mismanagement and eventually filed cases of fraud against him.

For instance, the company alleged that Kazuo Okada arranged to give out some P900-million loan—free of interest—to a company in Hong Kong for the purchase of some artworks for his personal benefit.

But even as the regulator of all the casinos in the country, Pagcor chose to keep its distance from the fraud cases filed against him by his own corporate group.

According to reports, Pagcor officials said they would not investigate Kazuo Okada and his deals involving the Manila project.

In sharp contrast, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (the equivalent of Pagcor in Las Vegas) announced that it would investigate the same deals, even if they involved a project outside the United States.

Why? Well, for the simple reason that the grandfather company Universal Entertainment has a gaming license in Nevada.

Is it not the same thing with Pagcor, as it gave the same license to Okada Manila?

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

View Comments