Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is no stranger to controversial headlines thanks to his outspokenness and unwillingness to shy away from controversy. If you want more information about this, simply do a search of Duterte’s policies regarding drug smugglers. Most recently, the president is at the center of controversy due to his ordering the arrest of Jack Lam, the man behind many of Asia’s massive, high-profile casinos.
According to the chief of Philippine police, Lam is going to be charged with economic sabotage and bribery. In addition to this, authorities recently shut down two locations that were suspected of hosting and operating illegal online gambling operations. In the raid, more than 1,000 Chinese men were working in call centers based out of a former US air base. The men are currently being detained and their immediate future is not clear. If you know anything about Duterte, he tends to be harsh, so it will be interesting to see what fate the more than 1,000 workers will face.
In response to these Chinese workers being arrested, the chief of Philippine police said that an associate of Lam had recently contacted him asking for their release. A short while after that, Duterte announced that there would be a warrant out for Lam’s arrest.
Despite his wanted status, Jack Lam is reported as saying that he is fully ready and willing to come to the Philippines and cooperate with the investigation. Lam, who owns Hong Kong-based Jimei International, rose to fame in Macau by setting up and organizing trips for Chinese citizens who wanted to gamble at Macau’s extravagant casinos. More recently, however, Lam has faded away from prominence and has been mostly unheard of before this incident.
Also in recent days, Duterte mandated that Lam’s two Philippine-based casinos be closed until further notice. Though these properties were owned by Lam, they are not at all affiliated with Jimei International.
This whole situation is very confusing because even though Lam’s two Philippine casinos have been shut down, there are still thousands of people using his internet gambling sites on a daily basis. It will be interesting to see if Lam does, in fact, come to the Philippines in order to figure this situation out, or if he will try to handle things from another country to avoid being detained and placed in jail.
There are still a lot of unknowns regarding what exactly Lam is being charged with and how the operations on the former US air base tie into his charges of bribery and economic sabotage, but we hope to uncover those in the near future. We would not at all blame Lam if he chose to stay away from the country altogether, if for no other reason than the fact that Duterte is unpredictable and may do any number of things to Lam once he steps foot on Philippine soil; including arresting him and putting him in jail.
Something else that will be interesting to see is how this whole situation affects any further gambling operations in the Philippines. With its close proximity to places like China, which do not allow for casino gambling, the Philippines is considered to be a safe-haven of sorts. If that changes anytime soon, Asian gamblers will be left out in the cold so to speak.