Duterte says ‘no’ — but gambling regulator doesn’t rule out Boracay casino

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Boracay’s famous sunset, and a Galaxy casino in Macau

Despite President Duterte ruling out plans for a Boracay casino, the country’s gambling regulator has suggested that it could go ahead — so long as it’s green.

In a statement yesterday (Wednesday, April 11), presidential spokesman Harry Roque said: “I did clarify this with the president and the president said ‘as far as Boracay as concerned I have not issued any proclamation that will authorise any casino in Boracay itself’.”

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Previously, on Monday, the president had denied even knowing about the plans. Answering questions as he prepared to depart for a visit to China, he said: “There are no plans for a casino. Let’s stop it because it’s too much.”

However, Andrea Domingo, the chairwoman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), has today said she expected Galaxy Entertainment Group to “help preserve the environment on the island” — suggesting that the plans have not been entirely shelved.

When asked about the president’s objection to casinos in Boracay, Ms Domingo said she trusted his “intelligence and discernment to make a carefully thought out policy that would consider the benefits of having such a large investment located on the island”.

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President Duterte recently ordered theisland’s closure for six months from April 26 for “environmental rehabilitation” after describing it as a “cesspool”.

Previously, Galaxy and local partner Leisure and Resorts World had been granted a provisional licence to proceed with a $500-million casino resort. As part of their application, they committed to ensure the project complied with all environmental laws and regulations.

Ms Domingo added that this was only the first step toward gaining full permission.

“With their provisional licence, they can now proceed to meet the requirements for a real licence,” she said. “One emphasis is that they should follow all environment laws, rules and regulations. Without that, they will not be able to build any infrastructure.”

She also challenged the widely held notion that the $500 million development would be a ‘mega casino’ solely designed for gambling.

“Only a small portion of the project’s area will be for gambling,” she explained. “The rest will be for hotels, recreational facilities, a theme park, restaurants and other tourism related facilities. Gaming is only 7.5 per cent. The focus will be a whole integrated resort or facility.”

The Malacañang is yet to respond to Ms Domingo’s comments.

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