Philippine President Duterte says he hates gambling, rules out new casinos

Mr Duterte on Tuesday ordered a review of Landing International's contract to build an integrated casino project in Manila. He had ordered the gaming operator in January to stop accepting new applications. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (REUTERS) - Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday (Aug 8) that there would be no new casinos set up during his presidency, a day after abruptly shelving Landing International's US$1.5 billion (S$2 billion) integrated casino project in Manila.

The Philippines is one of Asia's fastest-growing gambling markets, and its integrated casino resorts have helped create jobs and generate tax and tourism revenue. It also benefits from bans on gambling in many South-east Asian nations.

Mr Duterte on Tuesday ordered a review of Landing's contract, the same day it broke ground on its project, arguing that it put the government at a disadvantage because the rental payment was too cheap and the lease too long.

He reiterated his longstanding opposition to gambling and said he wanted no new casinos.

"I hate gambling. I do not want it," Mr Duterte said during a public speech, without elaborating.

"There will be no casinos outside of what are existing. I am not granting anything."

The notoriously blunt President ordered the gaming operator in January to stop accepting new applications, in a bid to prevent overcrowding in the sector and manage its growth.

At the end of last year, there were nine private casino firms in the Philippines operating 1,444 gaming tables and 9,427 electronic gaming machines, according to government data.

Gross gaming revenues rose 11.6 per cent to 176.5 billion pesos (S$4.5 billion) last year.

Since the halt in new applications, two foreign firms, Macau's Galaxy Entertainment Group and Landing, have secured provisional gaming licences.

It was not immediately clear whether other applications submitted prior to January and pending approval would be impacted.

Officials of the gaming regulator were not immediately available for comment.

Landing said on Wednesday that it had nothing to add to its statement issued the day before, which said the integrated resort project was pushing through and its lease contract was valid.

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