Foreigners allowed to join gaming sector

By Gerard S. dela Peña, BusinessWorld

Posted at Mar 17 2010 11:16 AM | Updated as of Mar 17 2010 07:16 PM

MANILA, Philippines - A directive allowing the entry of foreign investors into the local gaming sector has been issued by Malacañang.

Executive Order 858, put out Feb. 5, contains the Eighth Regular Foreign Investment Negative List or the investment areas and activities that may be opened to foreign investors.

The list retained almost all the prohibited fields and activities for foreign investors that was indicated in the seventh list issued on Dec. 8, 2006, except for an exemption given with respect to gambling.

The previous list had set a total ban on the entry of foreign investors in the local gaming industry.

Annexed to Malacañang directive was List B -- enumerating limitations due to risks on security, defense, health and morals of Filipinos, and protection of small and medium enterprises -- which indicated that foreign investors may engage in businesses related to any form of gambling provided they are covered by investment agreements with Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

Foreign-owned gaming firms must be situated in special economic zones administered by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.

The EO in effect reinforces a provision in Republic Act 9487 -- amendments to the Pagcor charter -- dated June 20, 2007, which basically allows the state firm to enter into investments, joint ventures, and management agreements with any person, firm or association.

The foreign investment negative list is periodically issued by the president upon the recommendation of the National Economic and Development Authority.

It contains two lists, with List A containing the limitations on foreign ownership mandated by the constitution and specific laws.

The lists likewise prohibits foreign entities from engaging in small-scale mining as well as retail trade enterprises with paid-up capital of less than $2.5 million, owning and operating private security agencies, utilizing marine resources, and the manufacture of firecrackers, pyrotechnic devices, and biological, chemical and radiological weapons.

Foreign investors may have limited ownership of private radio communications networks, recruitment agencies for local or overseas employment, advertising firms, public utilities, financing companies and investment houses, among many others.

EO 858 did not specify expiry dates to the lists. Amendments to List A can be made any time while changes in List B cannot be made more often than once every two years.