A decision in the Philippine Supreme Court this week will do little to reassure foreign high rollers taking advantage of 'whale' junkets to the Asian region.
The case involved a Korean high roller who claimed the right to redeem $2.1 million in chips he had accumulated after four trips to a Philippine land casino in Manila on junkets run by the Philippines casino gambling monopoly PAGCORP and its partner ABS Corporation.
When PAGCORP refused to help cash in Yun Kwan-byung's chips, the Korean high stakes player started a series of legal actions which progressed unsuccessfully through a regional court, a court of appeal and finally the Supreme Court.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the petition by Yun Kwan-byung lacked merit as he had gambled in the Philippines under an illegal junket agreement between the Philippine monopoly operator and its Korean partner ABS.
The high-roller program 'imported' foreigners to gamble in the Philippines at specially designated gaming tables at the Casino Filipino Silahis at the Grand Boulevard Hotel in Manila.
Under the agreement, "ABS Corporation will assume sole responsibility to pay the winnings of its foreign players and settle the collectibles from losing players."
The Supreme Court decision was based on the premise that over the period of Yun Kwan-byung's gambling action in the Philippes, PAGCOR was covered by an old law that prohibited it from entering into an agreement with a third party like ABS in the conduct of casino operations.
The Supreme Court ruled that since Yun played under an essentially illegal gambling arrangement, "no action can be maintained by the winner for the collection of what he has won in a game of chance."
"The petitioner cannot sue PAGCOR to redeem the cash value of the gambling chips or recover damages arising from an illegal activity for two reasons," the court's ruling declared.
"First, the petitioner engaged in gambling with ABS Corporation and not with PAGCOR.
"Second, the court cannot assist the petitioner in enforcing an illegal act. Moreover, for a court to grant the petitioner's prayer would mean enforcing the junket agreement, which is void."
It is not clear what the player's rights and intentions are regarding ABS Corporation, a Korean entity.
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