Philippines-licensed online gambling sites will be included in the country’s proposed new anti-money laundering (AML) legislation.
This summer, Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. announced plans to introduce tough new legislation (HB 14) that would rescind the exemption casinos received under the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001.
On Tuesday, the Manila Times reported that Belmonte has included online gambling sites in the list of gaming operators that must report all suspicious and covered transactions to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), regardless of the amount of the transaction.
The new requirement will reportedly apply to all Philippine-based online operators, be they licensed under the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (as most Asian-facing operators are now) or via the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) under its new PAGCOR Offshore Gaming Operator licensing regime, which seeks to exert tighter control over the country’s significant online industry.
HB 14 defines money laundering as “a crime whereby the proceeds of an unlawful activity are transacted, thereby making them appear to have originated from legitimate sources.”
A covered transaction is defined as a single transaction undertaken by a single individual in a single day that exceeds P4b (US $82.7m). Suspicious transactions exist whenever an operator knows, suspects or has reason to suspect, or should have known by due diligence that the transaction:
a) involves funds from an unlawful activity or money laundering offense; b) is designed to evade any of the requirements under the Anti-Money Laundering Law; c) has no business or apparent lawful purpose or is not sort in which the particular customer would normally be expected to engage and the casino operator or any of its employees knows of no reasonable explanation for the transaction after examining facts and background of possible purpose of transaction; and d) involves the use of casinos to facilitate unlawful activity money laundering and terrorist financing.
HB 14 also grants the AMLC the power to conduct on-site inspections of gambling operators’ records and documents, including individual accounts deemed related to any unlawful activity.
Belmonte said he was prompted to file HB 14 after the Philippines land-based casino industry made global headlines for its role in the theft of $81m from Bangladeshi central bank accounts. Some of this money was handled by local casinos and junket operators, while only a fraction has been recovered to date.