MANILA, Philippines—Evangelist Eddie Villanueva, the Bangon Pilipinas party’s lone senatorial candidate, on Tuesday warned against the possible inflow of “hot money” into the country following the expected surge of high-end casino operations here.
Villanueva said “while the entry of high-end casinos, like the just-opened Solaire Resort and Casino on Manila Bay, is seen to bring in more tourists and business prospects to the Philippines, it may also mean high risks in terms of money laundering schemes.”
In a statement, he urged the government to “keep a very close watch on possible money laundering activities.”
“We do not want to be known as one of the top money laundering destinations in the world,” he said.
“We cannot be complacent,” he added. “Although casinos are targeting high-stake gamblers, we also have to be realistic in admitting that they can be venues for money laundering activities.”
He noted that “just recently, the Philippines managed to avert being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force following the approval of the amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.”
“While the Senate bill included casinos on the list of covered institutions, this was taken out in the final version of the amended law…. Because of the inadequacy of the revised AMLA, Congress will have to spend for another round of amendments, which cost money and time, which are better spent on other priority measures,” he added.
Last Saturday, no less than President Aquino opened the giant $1.2-billion Solaire Resort and Casino, kicking off the country’s high-stakes bid to join the world’s elite gaming destinations of Macau, China, and Las Vegas in the United States.
Solaire, controlled by billionaire Enrique Razon Jr., the country’s third richest man, is only the first of four huge gaming venues set to rise on reclaimed land as part of the state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.’s Entertainment City complex that the government hopes will draw millions of foreign visitors.