Casinos and online gambling operators in the Philippines are one step closer to facing new anti-money laundering (AML) requirements as legislators seek to rein in the industry’s freewheeling reputation.
On Wednesday, the Philippine Senate approved the second reading of SB 1468, which will bring casino operators under the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) for the first time. The bill will likely face its third and final reading next week, in order to comply with a deadline imposed by the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG).
The bill will require casinos – including “internet and ship-based casinos” – to report all gaming-related single cash transactions in excess of P5m (US $100k), which is pretty lenient given that earlier bills had proposed setting that bar at just P150k ($3,200). It’s also a better deal than that offered to non-gaming operators, who are required to report covered transactions totaling P500k ($10k) in a single banking day. US federal regulations for casinos require filing reports on all transactions over $10k.
The Senate needs to pass the AML legislation by next month, in keeping with the APG’s ‘request’ to include casinos under the AMLA ahead of the APG’s next meeting, which is in July. The law revision will also mend fences with the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which has long criticized the Philippines for omitting gaming operations from the original AMLA.
Failure to include casinos under the AMLA would result in the FATF putting the Philippines on its AML blacklist, a designation that would likely result in increased banking costs, which poses a threat to the vast sums remitted by overseas Filipino workers (OFW). Those OFWs remitted a record $26.9b in 2016, 5% higher than the previous year, and representing 9.8% of Philippines’ gross domestic product.
The inclusion of casinos under the AMLA took on new urgency following last year’s cyber-theft of over $100m from Bangladeshi central bank accounts, of which around $81m ended up flowing through the Philippine gaming industry. To date, only a small portion of that sum has been recovered. US security officials have suggested that North Korea was behind the cyber theft.