PAGCOR told to issue Waterfront Philippines casino license


philippine-court-waterfront-casino-licenseManila’s casino options could be increasing by one after the Philippine Court of Appeals (CA) upheld a lower court ruling supporting the casino license application of Waterfront Philippines Inc.

On Monday, the CA’s Sixth Division instructed the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to issue a provisional gaming license to Waterfront, upholding a lower court ruling that found in favor of Waterfront’s petition.

It was nearly a decade ago that Waterfront filed an application for a license to develop and operate the Grand Waterfront Hotel and Casino in Manila’s Entertainment City gaming zone, which already holds four major integrated resorts. Despite agreeing to all of PAGCOR’s requirements, including depositing US$100m in a commercial bank, the regulatory body declined to act on Waterfront’s application.

Waterfront filed a petition with local courts in March 2015, seeking to compel PAGCOR to perform its mandated functions. In August 2017, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Manila found in Waterfront’s favor and ordered PAGCOR to act on the company’s license application.

The CA supported the RTC’s verdict, saying it found that the RTC rulings were “supported by factual and legal justifications” and that Waterfront had “completed the requirements for its project application, which warranted the review and evaluation thereof.”

The CA said PAGCOR should implement the RTC’s decision “without delay,” including the issuance of a provisional casino license. The CA also agreed that PAGCOR owed Waterfront P200k (US$3,800) in moral and exemplary damages.

Waterfront operates several hotel-casino properties in the Philippines, the gaming operations of which utilize PAGCOR’s own Casino Filipino brand.

Waterfront’s court victory comes just as PAGCOR is being pressured by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to rein in the domestic casino industry, including the cancellation of all casino licenses on the island of Boracay. The government also recently intervened to scrap a proposed Entertainment City project by Landing International Development.

Last week, Duterte warned cops to stay away from the Okada Manila casino, saying the Entertainment City venue attracted a “lowlife” clientele. The uncertain regulatory climate surrounding the Philippine casino sector reportedly contributed to this fall’s decision by the local division of Melco Resorts & Entertainment to delist from the Philippine Stock Exchange.