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The Outsider (Melandrew T. Velasco): PAGCOR’s Al Tengco: Executive of the Year

In the reputable world of global gaming, a nomination for the “Executive of the Year Award” is enough for a fantastic achievement in itself.  

 These remarks came from one of the organizers of a prestigious award-giving event held on June 4 at Conrad Hotel- Manila.   

 The organizers  then proceeded to name the Philippines’ very own PAGCOR Chairman-CEO Alejandro H. Tengco as the global gaming industry’s “Executive of the Year” during that epochal awards night.   Thus, Tengco bested the top honchos of MGM, Aristocrat Gaming, Jade Entertainment, Sands and Wynn Resorts Macau.    

Another Philippine company Bloomberry Resorts Corporation controlled by billionaire Enrique K. Razon Jr won the award as “Casino Operator of the Year”, an  accolade it  shared with Galaxy Entertainment,a Hong Kong-based operator of hotels and casinos.  

  Mariya Savova,  event manager for the Global Gaming Awards – a project of the publication “Gambling Insider” – said of the host : “The Philippines is now the most dynamic and innovative gaming market in Asia with developments in both the land-based and online verticals, so it certainly was a great pleasure to have the Global Gaming Awards Asia-Pacific here in Manila.”

 For this noteworthy feat, Tengco brought honor and pride to the country and deserved my personal congratulations.   

More than a tribute to PAGCOR, the award “validated the efforts that we have been putting over the past two years. It also proved that we are leading the agency in the right direction,” Tengco said over dinner at Tiger’s Kitchen in the sprawling Newport City.

 Incidentally,  I had the honor and privilege to have met Newport’s Big Boss, Mr. Kevin Tan during the dinner hosted by Tiger Kitchen owner and H&H Chairman Bryan Oh and Zeal 7 Rays Chairman Seonghan Kim .  (I would like to take up more of Tan’s plans and accomplishments as a young, game-changing businessman in another opinion piece.)

   Tengco added: “This award inspires me to work harder so that our plans and aspirations for PAGCOR may become a reality during my tenure as chairman and CEO under the administration of President Bong Bong Marcos.”  

   Under Tengco’s watch, PAGCOR aims at becoming the “gold standard” of the Asian gaming industry.

  To strangers in the gaming industry, Tengco is a true-blue Atenean, lawyer and risk taker who once owned several companies before he was enlisted in PAGCOR.

   “In business and in life, you must be a risk taker to succeed,” Tengco added. With the gaming industry zooming up to a dynamic start, Tengco definitely is assured of PAGCOR’s  trajectory.   

In the first quarter of the year, PAGCOR chalked up a total income of P25.24 billion, a 42.57% surge compared with the same period last year. 

  The three-month earnings put the state gaming firm on track to reach the P100 billion annual income for the year, which would be a first in the 40-year history of the state gaming firm. 

 “We are happy to announce that PAGCOR is able to sustain our growth trajectory in the first quarter of 2024 and this should help position us into achieving another record-breaking year,” Tengco said in a matter- of-fact way.     

  Gaming operations accounted for the bulk of revenues with P22.29 billion. Of this amount, 43.46% or P9.69 billion came from the e-Games sector (e-Bingo, e-Games and Bingo grantees) while licensed casinos (integrated resorts) brought in P8.04 billion (36.06%).   However, revenues from PAGCOR-run casinos under the Casino Filipino brand continued to slide, earning P3.7 billion, down from the 20.68% share it contributed to PAGCOR’s revenues in 2023.   Offshore gaming operations contributed P860.89 million or 3.86% of the total gaming income.   

“As we said earlier, the e-games sector will be our major source of gaming revenues this year and in the next few years as innovation and technological integration allows the sector to offer more excitement and convenience to gamers,” Tengco said.  

     The record-setting growth of the gaming sector is also expected to linger as a result of Tengco-initiated reforms. 

Moreover, he said, the gaming agency’s robust earnings bode well for the government’s various socio-civic programs including funding for the Universal Healthcare Program which provides health insurance to millions of poor Filipinos through PhilHealth.   

Charity organizations and even local government units also depend on the gaming agency for much-needed donations. PAGCOR has ample provisions for these needs, Tengco assured these groups.   Of the agency’s nearly P19 billion net income in the first quarter, P15.56 billion will go to its “Contributions to Nation-Building.” This includes the 5% franchise tax; 50% government share; shares for LGUs hosting PAGCOR casinos; other socio-civic projects; 5% share of the Philippine Sports Commission; funding for the Sports Incentives and Benefits Act; and 1% share of the Board of Claims to compensate persons who are wrongfully convicted.   

  Behind those glowing income figures, there’s the soft side of Tengco, who shows not only his business acumen but also his own social consciousness, a genuine concern for the workers’ welfare. He wants to preserve the 70,000 Filipino workers under PAGCOR’s employ, a plan that must be balanced with the realities and challenges of  the time.   There’s also PAGCOR’s mandate to transform itself into a purely regulator role once its privatization takes full effect by 2025.

   Being a top-tier manager,Tengco is up to the challenges facing the state-gaming agency. 

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 (The author is a writer, veteran author and publisher of coffee-table books. He is also the president and CEO of Media Touchstone Ventures Inc. He also serves as president and executive director of the Million Trees Foundation Inc, a non-government outfit advocating tree planting and watershed protection.)