Casinos 'worst place' for dirty money, Solaire's Razon says

Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 21 2016 04:00 PM

Casinos are the "worst place" to hide dirty money, the owner of a Philippine casino that received millions of dollars in stolen money from Bangladesh said Thursday.

At the same time, Bloomberry Resorts Chairman Enrique Razon said he was in favor of requiring casinos to report suspicious transactions to anti-money laundering authorities.

A portion of the $81 million that was stolen by hackers from Bangladesh's foreign reserves last February ended up in Solaire, Bloomberry's billion-dollar Manila casino.

"Casinos are the worst place to go to launder money. You bring money here, the casino will make you play all of it. If you lose even half, your laundering exercise is wasted," he said.

A Senate investigation has revealed that some of the stolen funds were converted into "dead chips", which cannot be converted to cash, but can be played on betting tables.

Casinos are exempted from scrutiny by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), making the Philippines a convenient target for money laundering syndicates.

While Razon said he was in favor of placing casinos under the jurisdiction of the AMLC, the threshold amount of transactions to be reported should be changed.

"If you use the current thresholds, we will be reporting everyone who goes into the casino," he said.

Razon said the money laundering controversy was unlikely to affect Solaire, but the business is feeling the pressure from competing casinos as well as weak demand from China.

"The casinos all opened at the same time, and the market isn't growing as fast as the industry wants," he said.

Razon said the company would pursue investments in Cyprus and build a casino in Vertis North, a commercial and residential complex north of Manila.

Bloomberry Resorts shares were up 0.13 percent to 4.64 pesos on Thursday.