The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. on Wednesday maintained that local government units do not have the authority to regulate games of chance in their areas.
Instead, this function is a mandate of Pagcor by virtue of its charter in Presidential Decree 1869, it said in a statement.
The state firm was reacting to Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte’s pronouncements that the city council will pass an ordinance that will regulate the operation of games of chance within QC’s territorial jurisdiction.
Part of this planned gaming regulatory ordinance, Pagcor noted, is the collection of an entry fee to limit the locals’ access to the soon-to-rise Solaire casino, which will be built by Bloomberry Resorts Corp. on a 1.57 hectare land in Quezon City’s Ayala Vertis North complex.
“We would like to reiterate that with regard to regulation of gaming in LGUs, Presidential Decree Number 771 ‘revokes the authority of LGUs to issue license permit or any form of franchise to operate, maintain and establish forms of gambling,’” the state firm said.
In addition, Pagcor noted that Opinion Number 91 s. 1998 of the Department of Justice stated that the phrase “national government” was interpreted in the law as “no other than the national government agencies which have been vested with the authority to issue permits or franchises, maintain and establish the gaming activities mentioned therein.”
Opinion 91 also mentioned that Pagcor was established to enable the government to regulate and centralize through an appropriate institution all games of chance authorized by existing franchise or permitted by law.
The Office of the President, as early as 1996, issued a memorandum stating that “only the national government has the power to issue licenses or permits for the operation of gambling, since the power of LGUs to regulate gambling through the grant of franchise, license or permit was withdrawn by PD 771 as early as 1975,” the state firm noted.
“The provisions in the law are clear. Pagcor is vested the authority to ensure that proper regulations are in place so as not to endanger the interests of the country—including cities and LGUs,” it said.
If the local government of Quezon City abhors gambling—so as to create measures that are beyond its powers – Pagcor said it should not have issued Bloomberry Resorts Corp. a Letter of No Objection and Resolution of No Objection when the casino firm was completing documentary requirements for the application of a provisional license.
Obtaining consent of the local government authority that has territorial jurisdiction over the area chosen as site for any of Pagcor’s operations was stipulated in Republic Act 9487 when the state firm’s corporate life was extended by 25 years, renewable for another 25 years.
Meanwhile, on the collection of entry fees as a means to “look after the welfare of the people,” Pagcor said a study published in UNLV Gaming Research & Review Journal shows that imposing the “entry fee policy” will drive away recreational gamblers but will make problem gamblers less price-sensitive.
“Hence, it will result to significantly lower gaming revenues but will not address the addiction of problem gamblers,” the state firm said.
To address problem gambling, Pagcor has advocated the Code of Practice for Responsible Gaming, which is being adopted by all Pagcor-operated and licensed entities—to minimize the potential harm of gambling to the individual and the community.
“Finally, PAGCOR would like to underscore that if the Quezon City government sees the operation of casinos and integrated resort as something that will endanger the welfare of residents and will do more harm than good, then it can opt not to issue a Mayor’s business permit to Solaire Resort and Casino,” it said.