Pagcor probes Suncity for withholding clients’ millions
The country’s gaming regulator is investigating the Suncity Group to determine whether the local unit of the world’s largest casino junket operator has indeed failed to return hundreds of millions of pesos of clients’ deposits since the start of the pandemic.
In a mobile phone message to the Inquirer, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chair and CEO Andrea Domingo said the agency also wanted to get to the bottom of allegations that the funds in question were invested elsewhere without the approval of their owners.
“The Pagcor group has approved the creation of an investigative committee headed by the legal department’s assistant vice president [Arnold] Salvosa,” she said, adding the regulator was aware that the funds at the center of the dispute were allegedly invested elsewhere, but no solid proof “has yet been found.”
“We promptly respond to issues like these,” Domingo said.
The Pagcor chief said the agency’s legal team was analyzing reports and conducting a preliminary determination whether a more intensive investigation was needed.
“In this case, the board [of directors of Pagcor] has authorized a deeper, thorough investigation,” Domingo said, noting that the regulator was also aware of some informal complaints, but stressed that “the investigation will center on the formal letter of complaint.”
Earlier, a group of 49 casino junket players asked Pagcor to sanction Suncity for its alleged refusal to allow them to withdraw hundreds of millions of pesos in advance placements despite repeated requests for almost a year now.
Through their counsel Ronald Aala, the group said they agreed to place their money and convert them into playing chips “on the condition that they can use or withdraw their respective placements at any time and at any location where the Suncity Group operates.
But when the junket players decided to withdraw their deposits due to limited travel and gaming caused by the pandemic, Aala said Suncity refused to return the funds. The firm proposed to instead release a small portion of the deposits over a given period or P5 million every 20 days, subject to the approval of their accounting department or board of directors, according to Aala.
In response, Suncity took out a full page ad with the Manila Bulletin last week assailing what it called “inaccurate reporting citing a biased source in the person of a certain Atty. Ronald Aala who claims to represent 49 claimants.”Suncity said it has raised the lack of authority of Aala to represent some claimants who were supposedly unaware of the claim being lodged with Pagcor. Some of these clients have already settled the issue with Suncity, the firm said.
Suncity said that, in several letters to Pagcor, it has reiterated its commitment to honor its obligations, but added that it is constrained from doing so by the supposed “absence of the account holder, the lack of proper and acceptable authorization for representatives, noncompliance with agreed withdrawal procedures, or noncompliance with antimoney laundering safeguards” being implemented by the firm. INQ
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