Philippines' Duterte orders halt on new casinos to prevent oversupply

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, wearing a military uniform, gestures as he attends the 67th founding anniversary of the First Scout Ranger regiment in San Miguel town, Bulacan province, north of Manila, Philippines November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a halt on the entry and creation of new casinos to prevent an oversupply in one of Asia’s fastest-growing gambling markets, the country’s gaming regulator said on Thursday.

The non nonsense Philippine leader ordered a moratorium on Jan. 11 “because he did not want the industry to be crowded”, Andrea Domingo, chairman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), said in a text message.

Pagcor will no longer process applications for gaming licenses following the ban, Domingo said. Four applications for licenses, mostly by local businessmen, are pending with the gaming regulator.

The Philippines, which has one of Asia’s most freewheeling gambling industries, recorded 88 billion pesos ($1.71 billion) in gross gaming revenues in the first half of 2017, up 12 percent from a year ago, Pagcor data showed.

Growth was driven by warmer ties with China and increasing foreign visitors.

With gambling banned in many Asian countries, the Philippines has cashed in on growth of the sector, which has created tens of thousands of jobs and helps bring tourists to its malls, beaches and hotels.

Pagcor operates dozens of casinos in the Philippines, with 526 tables and 10,461 machines and there are nine huge private casino complexes offering 1,236 gaming tables and 7,767 electronic gaming machines, according to the latest available data.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty and Michael Perry