Sangil: 46 Pagcor licenses for sale

THE most recent news coming out of the palace is that government will start selling this year several Pagcor-operated casinos. It was highly recommended by President Duterte’s brain trust Department of Finance Secretary Carlos "Sonny" Dominguez, his boyhood friend from Davao City.

Initially, there will be 17 Pagcor operated casinos out of the 46 that may land on private operators. But it was admitted by Dominguez himself that the privatization may run into some complications.

For one, Pagcor doesn’t own any casino. What it owns are licenses. Take for example the two casinos in Pampanga. The one in Balibago in Angeles City and the other one in Clark Freeport. May I ask Secretary Dominguez, how can you proceed selling these two casinos when the buildings are privately-owned. What the government own are the licenses. It is the same in all those casinos in Manila, Cebu, Davao, Bacolod and elsewhere. All buildings are only leased to Pagcor. May I suggest therefore to the secretary to conduct more diligence.

A casino is a money factory provided you know how to run them. There were casinos that failed due to poor management, like those two in Clark Freeport. The two were formerly owned politicians. The old man Henry Sy, aka Tatay, now in his nineties ventured in gambling casino business. His City of Dreams (COD) casino in Pasay City is a jackpot.

He expanded his retail empire into banking, power and property businesses and yet he elected to join the gaming industry. Casino business is good and a very very profitable business. Look where Irineo Alvaro Jr. the poor guy from Concepcion, Tarlac has so many BMWs in his garage. He is in th on-line gambling and operates Midori in Clark.

Enrique "Ricky" Razon Jr., who is in port terminal operation, ventured also in casino business and his Solaire casino is raking in the money from the high rollers from Asian gamblers. According to the papers, not even sissy years of age he managed to to make the list in Forbes richest men in the world.

RETRO - In the sixties, the casinos in this country were lined along the stretch of Roxas Boulevard. The late Nicanor "Junior" De Guzman of Nueva Ecija was the most known among the casino operators during those years. He was in partnership with a powerful congressman from Bicol region and operated the Ambassador, Stardust, Chrysantemum and La Sirena. They were the more popular casinos and drew the most patrons.

The Magdaluyos, Riveros and few more others came up with their own establishments. They were closed down when President Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed martial law in September 1972. And a floating casino anchored at the Manila bay became the only gambling place for the habitués. Its operations had the blessing of Marcos. And later when a brother of then First Lady Imelda Marcos got interested in the casino business, a corporate vehicle known as PCOC was established to manage the gambling places and started putting up branches in some cities like Olongapo and Angeles.

And when Corazon Aquino was swept into power via the so-called Edsa revolution, he appointed a relative as chairman and chief executive officer of the PCOC which was renamed now as Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor). The members of the board of the directors were all handpicked by Tita Cory's younger brother, former Tarlac Congressman Jose "Peping" Cojuangco.

It may not be long now when Pagcor will cease to operate the casinos which by the way are grossly mismanaged, and allow private companies to conduct business without competition from unregulated government casinos which are spread in several cities all over the country. Pagcor will remain though as mere regulator and no longer an operator. It shouldn’t have been that case, wearing two crowns. An operator and regulating itself. Now the government under Duterte is responding to the mistake of the past.
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