The Philippine government is set to deal embattled online gaming firm PhilWeb Corp. what could be a lethal blow, with the head of the state casino regulator saying the company should not expect a fresh government mandate when its operating license expires tomorrow.
In a text message, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. Chair Andrea Domingo said the contract of the firm controlled by businessman Roberto Ongpin was set to end on Aug. 10, 2016, after having been provisionally renewed for a month.
“It will not be extended or renewed,” she said, adding that PhilWeb should cease operations in its 286 e-Games outlets nationwide starting on the following day, Aug. 11.
President Duterte has directed the government to clamp down on online gambling and has also singled out Ongpin as an “oligarch” whom he wanted to “destroy.” PhilWeb’s share price on the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) has dropped from P24.40 on the day Duterte took office to only P5.13 Monday, representing a decline of 79 percent over a six-week period.
The company’s shareholders have since then lost P26.7 billion worth of market capitalization and the firm was worth only P8.3 billion at the end of Monday’s trading session.
In response to the government’s clampdown, PhilWeb Monday said it has written Pagcor’s Domingo requesting for a meeting to clarify the situation.
“PhilWeb is merely a software provider to Pagcor for its network of e-Games outlets,” PhilWeb president Dennis Valdes said. “We are not online gaming. Our software cannot be played from homes or offices.”
Valdes also noted that each e-Games outlet is owned by an individual entrepreneur whose gaming license is issued by Pagcor directly to them. Each e-Games outlet therefore pays all taxes, as does PhilWeb itself.
“The e-Games network contributed a total of P2.1 billion to Pagcor in 2015 and over P14 billion in the past 14 years,” he added.
“We feel that President Duterte may have been misinformed,” Valdes said. “Thus, we are seeking the meeting with Domingo so that we may fully explain our side. As a publicly listed company, our records are fully open to public scrutiny and are available for a full investigation at any time.”
“I sincerely hope that the situation can be clarified,” he added. “Over 5,000 employees work in the e-Games outlets and it would be heartbreaking to see these people’s livelihoods affected. There are also over 1,500 stockholders in PhilWeb and many of these mom-and-pop investors cannot afford to have their savings wiped out overnight.”