A new report by a body under the Philippines’s Department of Finance suggests that the Philippines should seriously consider introducing an entry fee for casino access. The entry fee should be imposed on both local and foreign patrons.
The report was published by the National Tax Research Center on the NTRC Tax Research Journal and aims to justify why an entrance fee of as little as PHP500 (US$10) to as much as PHP1,500 (US$30) must be imposed across all casinos nationwide. The paper also studied the feasibility of the proposal and how the entry fee scheme could raise revenue for the government.
Philippines Can Generate Billions Via Entrance Fees
According to investment bank Credit Suisse, Philippine casinos can generate as much as US$6 billion by 2018, which makes the country one of the potential big earners in the global gaming industry. If the gaming regulator imposed a fixed PHP1,500 entry fee to casinos, the levy system would generate PHP1.67 billion in additional revenue even if it ended up reducing the number of local entrants to casinos by 80 percent.
According to data by the NTRC, on average there are 5.56 million entries made by Filipinos to casinos across the country each year. The stats show that nearly 99 percent of the locals played at licensed private-sector casinos and only 1 percent came in to Pagcor-operated casinos. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) is the main gaming regulator in the country.
Several bills were proposed in the lower house in previous years that supported the casino entry levy system. In 2015, the NTRC supported House Bill 4859 titled An Act Imposing the Payment of Entrance Fee to Residents of the Philippines that Patronize Casino, that proposed a PHP3,500 entrance fee for casinos in the Philippines.
Another bill was introduced in 2016 that called for a PHP3,000 entry fee and in 2017 yet another bill was introduced. The more recent bill was introduced by Isabela 1st District Representative Rodolfo Albano III after the high-profile attack was carried out by a gambling addict in Resorts World Manila, leaving 37 dead.
Entrance Fee Legislation Already In Place
The published paper noted that there is actually no need to introduce new legislation to impose the levy. There is already prior legislation that mandates Pagcor to collect entrance fees from those who want to enter and play in any casino. Under Executive Order 48 in 1993, Pagcor is allowed to collect what was termed a “qualifying fee” from all local and foreign players.
A total of PHP20.2 million in qualifying fees was collected by the regulator in 2005 and since then it has dropped significantly. In 2016, Pagcor collected only PHP14.44 million in fees.
While there is legislation in place, no effective implementation is being practiced. No set amount is mandated by the law and very few casinos enforce such fees. In addition to EO 48, Presidential Decree 1869 states that locals would have to provide proof that they have an annual gross income of PHP50,000 before they could use the casinos. This rule is also not being followed.
In Quezon City, the City Council also proposed a PHP1,500 entry fee in 2017 that will apply to all casinos developed in the area. This proposal came about after Bloomberry Resorts Corp. divulged their plans to build a mass-market focused casino in the area.
According to Albano, the imposition of the levy system would not only generate revenue, but also protect the lower-income Filipinos who are victims of gambling addiction. In a statement, Albao said, “It only seeks to address some poor people who have no more money and yet go inside and gamble all they have left for their families…. Deterrent also to poor addicts.”
Entrance Fee Concept Works Well In Singapore
A similar levy system is already in place in other Asian countries. In Singapore, citizens and permanent residents are required to pay a statutory entry levy of either S$2,000 for a year’s entry or S$100 for a 24-hour access to the two casino resorts in the region. Japan, who is currently poised to legalize the construction of integrated casino resorts has also been considering the idea of a levy system.
Macau has also been considering the option of putting in place an entrance fee system. However, unlike Singapore, Japan, and the Philippines who are all focused on discouraging locals from entering the casino, Macau is more concerned about keeping terrorists and threats away from casinos.

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