A government agency created by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has asked the country’s gaming regulator to cancel all gaming licenses issued or promised to casino operators on the island of Boracay.
In May, Duterte issued an executive order creating the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF), which was tasked with imposing measures “to reverse the degradation of Boracay island.” The news came one month after Duterte vowed that there would be no casinos on Boracay once the island’s environmental clean-up was accomplished.
On Monday, Business Mirror published a letter sent by the BIATF to Andrea Domingo, who chairs the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). The letter said that in light of Duterte’s pronouncements and the mandate given the BIATF, the group was requesting that “any and all gaming franchise(s) and/or provisional license(s) in Boracay Island be cancelled by your good office.” The letter closed by asking for Domingo’s “timely cooperation on this matter.”
The letter was undated but Business Mirror claimed it had been signed by three Cabinet secretaries following a BIATF meeting on September 28. Boracay was re-opened to Philippine citizens last week following its six-month closure and international tourists are expected to be welcomed back on October 26.
Assuming PAGCOR honors the BIATF request, the on-again, off-again $500m resort casino project of Macau operator Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG) appears to be well and truly toast. It was only late August that GEG chairman Lui Che Woo was publicly reassuring investors that its Boracay project would eventually go ahead as planned.
The license cancellation would similarly doom a joint venture proposal by Genting Group and local tycoon Andrew Tan – the same tandem behind the Resorts World Manila casino – to add a casino to Boracay’s Savoy Hotel.
As for Boracay’s existing casinos – including those at the Crown Regency Resort and the Paradise Garden Resort – Business Mirror reported that some of these operators had observed the government’s instruction to shut down their gaming operations and would therefore be allowed to reopen their resorts to international guests later this week.
But the Movenpick Resort & Spa, which is owned by soft-drink magnate Alfredo Yao, reportedly never shut down its gambling business and its junket partners continued to funnel high-rolling gamblers to the Movenpick’s casino. It’s unclear why Philippine authorities apparently failed to enforce their shutdown order or what measures the Movenpick might face based on its alleged noncompliance.