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MANILA, Philippines – There is no conflict of interest when executives of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) accepted complimentary hotel accommodations from a casino operator that does business with the state gaming firm.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda stressed this at the Palace briefing on Tuesday, February 21, echoing PAGCOR chair and CEO Cristino Naguiat’s explanation that this is “standard industry practice.”
“Naguiat mentioned that there is reciprocity in the benefits granted to each other. So it’s industry practice,” Lacierda told reporters.
Lacierda said President Aquino was satisfied with the explanation of Naguiat that this industry practice actually lowers costs for the government.
He stressed that these free accommodations were accepted by PAGCOR officials only while on a gaming convention abroad.
The same “courtesy” is extended to foreign gaming executives when they visit the Philippines, Lacierda said.
Since gaming conventions are usually held in the US, Japan and other rich countries where cost of accommodation is steep, Lacierda said PAGCOR’s reciprocal move to shoulder the “cheaper cost” of the Philippine visits of foreign gaming officials is proper.
“They are here to attend an activity and if we’re there, we attend a gaming convention. So we don’t see it as a conflict of interest,” he said.
The economics of the issue benefits PAGCOR and not the officials themselves, Lacierda said.
According to the findings of an investigation commissioned by Wynn Resorts, PAGCOR officials accepted freebies in the past 3 years, including the September 2010 visit of Naguiat and others to Wynn Resorts casino and hotel in Macau.
Naguiat had said in a statement Monday, February 20, that he or any PAGCOR official did not receive cash or inappropriate payments amounting to some $110,000 from Wynn’s shareholder, Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada.
Okada and his business partner at Wynn had a falling out and have filed complaints against each other. This long simmering dispute had its roots on Okada’s decision to invest aggressively in the Philippines’ Entertainment City at the Manila Bay.
Wynn officials are apprehensive that the Philippine investment will threaten Wynn’s subsidiary in nearby Macau. – Rappler.com