Pagcor gets ball rolling on casino privatization
MANILA -Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) is bent on kicking off by the middle of 2025 the privatization of 45 casinos that it operates, expecting proceeds ranging from P60 billion to P80 billion, Pagcor chair and chief executive Alejandro Tengco told lawmakers on Monday.
At a hearing conducted by the committee of appropriations at the House of Representatives, Tengco said that while the expected amount of privatization proceeds was conservative, Pagcor will improve the casinos and raise their value to make them more attractive to buyers.
“That is the minimum estimate, but we expect [the amount] to rise because [the privatization] will go through [competitive] bidding,” he said.
Based on a separate estimate of Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, privatization will generate proceeds of P120 billion to P128 billion.
Tengco added that privatization “are sure to proceed, there’s no stopping it, and President Marcos has approved it.”
However, some lawmakers, including Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, objected. Rodriguez said he would file a resolution to oppose the privatization plan.
“After hearing [Tengco’s report on the status of Pagcor], it seems that everything will be in order in the coming years,” Rodriguez said.
Earlier in the hearing, Tengco said Pagcor expected to post revenues of P72 billion for 2023, based on the first semester’s P36-billion top line.
Also, Tengco said the expected full-year revenue for 2023 would be near Pagcor’s prepandemic revenue of P76 billion in 2019.
“So why are we going to sell the goose that lays the golden egg when we have good people at the helm of Pagcor,” Rodriguez said.
“If we privatize this, then the regularity of income that we receive from Pagcor will be cut short,” he added. “Why [should we] give the traffic [revenue stream] to them (private entities)?”
Rodriguez said he had opposed Pagcor privatization efforts in previous occasions. “With the present leadership of Pagcor, there is no reason to privatize.”
Tengco said privatization was related to efforts that would enable Pagcor to shed its operator or industry player status, and focus on its role as regulator.
“This is improper and unethical,” Tengco said. “Sometimes we overlook regulating ourselves. And we are the only ones in the world, being both the regulator and a regulated entity.”
But Rodriguez said it was better because this dual status makes Pagcor unique.
Pagcor does nor rely on a yearly allocation that must be approved by Congress. Instead, Pagcor contributes to the national budget through a share of the national government in its revenues — which is remitted to the National Treasury.
Moreover, Pagcor takes on “corporate social responsibility” activities that includes grants for disaster relief operations, construction of multi-purpose evacuation centers, medical assistance, construction of school buildings, support for athletes — some of which are coursed through offices of lawmakers.
During the hearing Tengco had to soothe hurt feelings of some lawmakers whose requests for assistance Pagcor could not grant.
Citing laws and disbursement rules laid down by the Commission on Audit, Tengco said Pagcor was not authorized to give money for ambulances, farm-to-market roads or repair of school buildings.