It’s been an eventful week for casinos in the Philippines as there has been much happening. This article will highlight the main activities that have been going on as far as casinos in the Philippines are concerned.
Police tracks down a gang of kidnappers that targets casino high rollers
Police in the Philippines have arrested a gang of up to 43 members who are accused of several kidnappings taking place in casinos in Manila. The gang mainly targets rich foreigners.
The seizing of the gang members came after a 48-year-old Singaporean woman was kidnapped in a casino in Manila on July 17th. The woman was kidnapped after two men approached her, befriended her, and convinced her to join them for a game in another casino. When she agreed, they instead kidnapped her in the car and held her ransom in Paranaque City. She was held for $180,000 ransom for four days, during which time she suffered torture and was forced to make a video to send to her family in Singapore asking for the money.
From the police statement, a raid was launched which led to the rescue of the woman and the arrest of the 43 suspects.
According to the Philippines news agency, it was easier for the police to seize the suspects since the woman was able to identify 14 of her alleged kidnappers. According to the Philippines police, there were approximately 22 kidnappings in 2016, with the majority happening in Mindanao, which has been considered a harbor for Islamist militant groups.
Mode of operation
The head of the PNP’s anti-kidnapping unit suggested that the gangs traveled in groups of four and they enter casinos looking for potential victims. Their main targets were rich foreigners. They would offer money or loans to those who had lost money or suggest taking them to a different casino for a game, after which they would kidnap the victims. Contrary to expectations, all those arrested were foreigners; two Malaysians, and the rest were Chinese. They were all residing in the Philippines illegally.
According to PNP, they are not against foreigners gambling, but are obviously against the criminal activities.
The Philippines introduces anti-money laundering law to cover casinos
Meanwhile, there is good news for the Philippines as the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001 was amended on July 14th and is responsible for protecting all casino operations. The Republic Act No. 10927 was adjusted to include casinos as beneficiaries of the anti-money laundering law.
Every class of casino is covered in the AMLA, including internet and ship-based casinos. The argument to include casinos is because they are regarded as businesses conducting gaming operations.
Under the AMLA is the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), responsible for overseeing financial activities in the country. According to AMLA, single cash transactions that involve huge amounts of money such as an excess of 5 million Philippines pesos should be reported to the AMLC.
Both the AMLC and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation are responsible for implementing the AMLA and regulating casino operations.
In the case that a casino is involved in unlawful activity, it will be given a freeze period of up to 20 days according to the law. The freeze will be effective immediately and it is the court of appeal’s responsibility to decide whether or not to modify or lift the freeze order. Depending on the decision of the court of appeal, the freeze order may extend up to a period of six months.
Anti-smoking legislation introduced and may affect casinos
There is a new anti-smoking legislation that has been introduced in the Philippines and casinos are no exempt from it. People are only allowed to smoke in designated smoking areas, and breaking the law subjects them for up to four months imprisonment and a fine of up to $75. Designated smoking areas are a maximum size of 10 square meters and should be at least 10 m from any building.
The country has one of the toughest anti-tobacco laws in the region, as well as bans on tobacco advertisements, promotions, and sponsorship. The order was signed by the president on May 26th and is yet to be implemented. According to a report by The Guardian, the Philippines public campaigners have been at work to make sure that the tough tobacco laws are in effect and smoking in public comes to an end. It states, in a report done in 2014 by the Southeast Asia Tobaccos Control Alliance, that a third of the total adult population smokes, with the majority being men.
The new law means that gamblers in the casino will not enjoy the comfort of smoking from where they want, and instead have to go to the designated smoking areas.
Clearly, there has been a lot happening in the Philippines for the span of a week. At least the country is working towards protecting casinos, and now gamblers can feel safer, including foreigners who come to gamble in the Philippines. With the anti-money laundering law, the government will be sure that money is not being abused, rather than banning gambling in general because it has a chance of promoting money laundering. The anti-smoking law, as much as it will pose as an inconvenience to smokers, will be in favor of non-smokers since they won’t be affected by secondhand smoke. It may also potentially reduce the number of smokers in general, which would mean a healthier population.