Rodrigo Duterte, the outspoken and hardline President of the Phillipines, has seemingly backtracked on a softer approach to online gambling regulation and moved to close it down entirely in the country.
In a speech which followed the announcement of the 2017 national budget Duterte stated that he would be “ordering the closure of all online gambling (firms)… All of them. They have no use.”
Duterte did not say anything more about the issue but Justice Secretary, Vitaliano Aguire II, confirmed to Inquirer.net that “the closure order was meant for all online gambling firms”.
As was to be expected the share prices of Philippine operators were hit and dropped considerably following the announcement. Shares in Philweb for instance declined 30% whilst Leisure and Resorts World shares fell by 20%.
Duterte took office back in June and one of his initial pledges, amongst many others, was that online gambling would be dealt with. This led to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), the regulator, stopping the issue of online gambling licences and also saw Philweb shut down its e-gaming cafes.
In the weeks after this however there appeared to be a change of tune from the government with PAGCOR announcing plans to issue offshore licenses in September. The Philippines’ online gaming industry is believed to employ at least 50,000 local residents, with salaries notably higher than the average which has a positive trickle down effect for the country’s wider economy.