Posted on August 01, 2016
By Keith Richard D. Mariano, Reporter
“We are pursuing with the plans; we don’t see any reason why we should not as long as we follow government guidelines,” LRWC Chairman and President Reynaldo P. Bantug told reporters after an annual stockholders’ meeting in Pasay City on Friday.
In the first Cabinet meeting, President Rodrigo R. Duterte directed Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrea D. Domingo to revoke the licenses of online gambling operators.
“We’re happy to say that [the] company is not affected by the statement… First, our business model is not really online because, as you know, we are a bingo parlor and we don’t use the Internet for that except for a small portion of our business,” Mr. Bantug said.
LRWC offers electronic games launched by PhilWeb Corp. under a license from PAGCOR although even this operation cannot be considered as online gambling, its Investor Relations Head Alfredo B. Reyes noted.
“There is really no online gaming in the Philippines because even the Philweb, you have to come in the site, sit down in the terminal… you cannot access it from the house,” Mr. Reyes said.
The misconceptions about the gaming industry are already being clarified with Mr. Duterte through PAGCOR, Mr. Bantug said.
“We follow government regulations, which are actually very strict. You have to be a certain distance from churches, certain distance from schools. You cannot allow anybody who is minor, below 21, to come in. All of your games being played has to have PAGCOR approval. So, all of these [are] being monitored very, very strictly.”
Asked whether Mr. Duterte’s hard line stance against online gambling has impacted operations, Mr. Bantug said: “In our business, it’s not really affecting us too much at all because even the e-Games, it’s business as usual. There is really no change in how we are operating the games.”
Accordingly, LRWC will continue implementing its expansion plan for the year. The listed company targets to open 30 more boutique bingo sites, in addition to the 137 it currently operates across the Philippines.
The company has reached various stages of negotiations with property owners in the provinces, particularly in Luzon and the Visayas, for the planned expansion, Mr. Reyes said.
LRWC is focused on building standalone sites rather than opening outlets in malls. This will allow for longer operating hours and save the company from the premium usually charged by the mall operator, Mr. Reyes said.
“But our expansion is really centered more on acquisition of existing sites and improving our own internal capabilities to be of better service to our patrons, so that will encourage them to patronize our sites more often,” Mr. Bantug said.
Strict regulatory requirements, particularly on the location of gaming operation, make it “very difficult” for the company to secure new sites for expansion, Mr. Bantug added.
Aside from operating bingo parlors, LRWC holds a 69.68% interest in First Cagayan Leisure & Resort Corp. (FLRC), which the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) has allowed to develop, operate and conduct Internet and gaming enterprises and facilities in the Cagayan Economic Zone Free Port.
“CEZA has online jurisdiction, which is different from the local market that PAGCOR is the one overseeing, so apparently the president’s focus was on the local market,” Mr. Bantug said, noting the operation in Cayagan caters to foreign players largely from China.
Asked if the country’s legal victory in an international arbitration over the territorial dispute off the West Philippine Sea has impacted the business, Mr. Bantug said: “Nothing. We’re in good relations. [Chinese players] enjoy coming here.”
Shares in LRWC dropped four centavos or 0.61% to P6.54 apiece on the Philippine Stock Exchange on Friday.
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