In a twin turn-around for the Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, gambling is to be legalised on one of the archipelago’s most-prized assets.
Boracay, a small island famed for its pristine parallel beaches has only just reopened after an 18 month closure to the public for “environmental rehabilitation.” After clearing out the sewage system and a raft of businesses branded illegal, the then anti-gambling premier assured Boracay would remain a gaming-free zone.
In yet another example of how much covid has changed Duterte’s most staunch positions, he now says casinos can and should be built there to attract more funds for the state.
“If you say, ‘Duterte, I thought you hated gambling. Now you want a gambling house in Boracay? You’re encouraging the tourists.’ Forgive me for the contradiction,” he said in his characteristic style.
“We don’t have money now. Where we can get money, I will get it. If it will be from gambling, so be it.
“If I’m wrong, then I’m wrong. If I didn’t keep my word, that’s right I didn’t. But I need money to run the government because I’m going to have a lot of expenses.”
The move opens the door to local tycoon Andrew Tan as well as Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment who have both been pushing for a concession on Boracay.
Galaxy had proposed a $500m IR casino on the island, and in 2018, just before the closure, the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) issued it with a provisional permit. By October of that year, Duterte scrapped it, telling reporters: “You know the billionaires? They want to build casinos there. I did not allow it.”
Galaxy’s boss has never given up hope, however. It’s always been one of the top five beach islands of the world,” said the Hong Kong billionaire Lui Che Woo. “We truly want to be part of it and make sure we would be able to elevate it back to the same position as before.”