In a policy U-turn, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has lifted a ban on casino operations on the resort island of Boracay, saying he needs money to “pay a lot of expenses and keep the government running.”
In a televised address, the Philippine’s top official apologized for his change of heart on gambling on Boracay, but went on to note that he needed to secure money from available sources and “if it’s from gambling, so be it.”
Tight measures against the coronaviurs and prolonged lockdowns have battered the Philippine economy. In addition to the heavy pandemic-induced economic woes, the country’s government is also currently grappling with a new spike in Covid-19 cases.
In 2018, President Duterte banned casinos from being developed and operated on the central island, famous for its white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and vibrant nightlife. It was that year again when the official also closed Boracay for six months and ordered an environmental cleanup to be conducted.
The President blasted the island’s hotels, restaurants, and other businesses for dumping sewage directly into the see and turning it into a “cesspool.”
Boracay’s closure stalled at least two multi-million dollar casino projects, including a $500 million plan pitched by Macau gaming and hospitality company Galaxy Entertainment Group and its Philippine partner Leisure and Resorts World.
Group to Proceed with Casino
Philippine businessman Andrew Tan and his Alliance Global Group, which partly owns Resorts World Manila, promoted the other Boracay casino scheme before President Duterte’s ban and the island’s closure.
Following news that the President has lifted the ban, Mr. Tan said that they “will proceed with our casino project in Boracay Newcoast.” Alliance Global already operates several hotels on the island and is developing a few more there.
Mr. Tan said that they are very hopeful the tourism industry in Boracay will recover fast after the pandemic.
As for Galaxy, it is yet to comment on the recently lifted casino ban and whether it would pursue expansion there. Leisure and Resorts World announced in late 2019 that discussions over the mega-scheme had stopped due to Duterte’s ban.
Both Galaxy and Alliance Group previously held provisional licenses enabling them to build and operate integrated casino resorts on Boracay. The two licenses were suspended following President Duterte’s ban.
Andrea Domingo, Chairman and CEO of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), the nation’s gambling regulator, said last week that the suspension of the two licenses would be lifted when the developers formally apply to have it lifted.
President Duterte permitting casinos on Boracay is not the first time the official has reversed a gambling-related policy in his five-year tenure at the Philippines’ helm. Not long ago, he allowed online gambling services to be offered to residents of the country under a new PIGO (Philippine Inland Gaming Operators) scheme, aimed at securing additional funds for the Philippine economy.
Source: Duterte drops Boracay casino ban, opening door for Macao’s Galaxy, Nikkei Asia, August 27, 2021