by Max Sangil
The richest man in the country today, Mr. Henry Sy Sr. migrated into the country and started selling shoes in a small store in Carriedo street in Sta. Cruz district in Manila in the fifties and is now included among the most moneyed in the world. Now in his nineties, he ventured in gambling casino business. He is part owner of City of Dreams Hotels and Casino.
He expanded his retail empire into banking, power and property businesses and yet he elected to join the gaming industry. Casino business is good and a very very profitable business.
Enrique ‘Ricky’ Razon Jr. who is in port terminal operation ventured also in casino business and his casino is raking in the money from the high rollers from Asian gamblers. According to the papers, at 55 he is the youngest Filipino to make the list in Forbes richest men in the world. He owns Solaire Hotel Casino which is only few hundred meters away from City of Dreams.
A new comer, a certain Mr. Okada, a Japanese businessman who built his riches by operating pachinko machines in most cities and urban centers in Japan recently opened Tiger Casino also in the entertainment city complex in the reclaimed area along the Roxas boulevard in Pasay City.
In the sixties, the casinos in this country were lined along the stretch of Roxas Boulevard. The late Nicanor ‘Junior’ De Guzman of Nueva Ecija was the most known among the casino operators during those years. He was in partnership with a powerful congressman from Bicol region and operated the Ambassador, Stardust, Chrysantemum and La Sirena. They were the more popular casinos and drew the most patrons.
The Magdaluyos, Riveros and few more others came up with their own establishments. They were closed down when President Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed martial law in September 1972. And a floating casino anchored at the Manila bay became the only gambling place for the habitués. Its operations had the blessing of Marcos.
And later when a brother of then First Lady Imelda Marcos got interested in the casino business, a corporate vehicle known as PCOC was established to manage the gambling places and started putting up branches in some cities like Olongapo and Angeles.
And when Corazon Aquino was swept into power via the so-called EDSA revolution, he appointed a relative as chairman and chief executive officer of the PCOC which was renamed now as Philipine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). The members of the board of the directors were all hand picked by Tita Cory’s younger brother, former Tarlac Congressman Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco.
It may not be long now when PAGCOR will cease to operate the casinos which by the way are grossly mismanaged, and allow private companies to conduct business without competition from unregulated government casinos which are spread in several cities all over the country. PAGCOR will remain though as mere regulator and no longer an operator. It is an anomaly for PAGCOR to wear two crowns, that of a an operator and a regulator at the same time.