(Second of three parts)
Roots: Albee’s wealth and residence
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez was a representative of the province’s Third District in 2018 when he became the second richest member of the House of Representatives, coming in after One Pacman Representative Mike Romero.
House records showed Benitez declaring a net worth of P1.017 billion in his statement of assets, liabilities and networth (SALN), a yearly reporting requirement for all government officials and employees made mandatory post the Marcos dictatorship.
Reputable website Bilyonaryo.com reported Benitez was the only other billionaire in Batasan in 2018 aside from Romero among the then 297 House members.
Benitez was on his way to completing his third and final term in 2018 when he became a billionaire and did not seek any elective public posts in the 2019 polls.
During his three straight terms of three years each, from 2010 to 2019, Benitez was not involved in the leisure and entertainment business that includes resorts and casinos. [READ also: Citizen Albee and why a billionaire wants to become mayor of Sugarlandia’s capital (First of three parts)]
Critics, and partisans of the opposing political group here accuse him of owning a gambling business, a charge he has repeatedly countered by pointing out that his family-owned business is legal and is regulated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), the government body.
It was created by then President Ferdinand Marcos through Presidential Decree 1067-A “amid calls for the Philippine Government to put a stop to the growing proliferation of illegal casino operations in various parts of the country then,” PAGCOR said on its official website.
The mandate of PAGCOR was later spelled out under PD1869, known as the PAGCOR Charter. Its three-pronged mandate are:
- Regulate, operate, authorize and license games of chance, games of cards and games of numbers, particularly casino gaming in the Philippines;
- Generate revenues for the Philippine Government’s socio-civic and national development programs; and
- Help promote the Philippine tourism industry.
Benitez has returned to the private sector in 2019, a move headlined by Bilyonaryo.com as “Albee Benitez rejoins corporate world to head family-owned LRWC(.)”
The report reads in part:
“Albee Benitez, who served his third and last term as congressman of the third district of Negros Occidental, is joining the board of directors of gaming firm Leisure & Resorts World Corp.
With Benitez back in management, expect more action from the listed company. He served as president of LRWC from Oct. 2005 to June 25, 2010.”
WHAT DOES ALBEE OWN?
What is LRWC? What businesses does it own and operate? What role does Benitez play in it?
LRWC was incorporated on 10 October 1957 based on its business and general information sheet submitted to the Secirities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the firm’s annual reporting to the regulatory body.
A copy of the report can be accessed on LRWC’s website lrwc.com.ph as a portable document format (pdf) of the filled out SEC17A form or the annual report to the SEC required from registered companies.
In its company profile page, LRWC said describes itself as dominating “… the Philippine retail gaming market by providing world-class multi-gaming platforms, numerous products and games with a strong distribution network of entertainment facilities in neighborhood sites.”
STARTED AS ATLAS FERTILIZER
The same profile also showed the firm started as Atlas Fertilizer Corporation that was involved in fertilizer and industrial chemicals production.
LRWC lists nine subsidiaries – AB Leisure Exponent, Inc., First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corporation, Leisure and Resorts Land, Blue Chip Gaming amd Leisure, AB Leisure Global, Midas Hotel and Casino, Prime Investment Korea, Inc., Total Gamezone Xtreme, Inc., and First Cagayan Converge Data Centre, Inc.
The Philippine Stock Exchange Corporation, on the other hand, lists the LRWC on its website under the “Services” sector and under the subsector of “Casinos and Gaming.”
Its primary purpose was amended in 1999 to “engage in realty development focusing on leisure business.”
On 31 March 1995, AB Leisure Exponent was registered with SEC, the 2021 General Information Sheet of LRWC showed.
Four years later, LRWC directors approved Share Exchange Agreements with the shareholders of AB Leisure Exponent Inc. that was then operating a number of bingo parlors.
LRWC acquired the entire outstanding capital stock of ABLE in exchange for 750 million new shares of the firm valued at P750 million.
A share exchange is defined by US Legal as a “statutory form of business combination in which some or all of the shares of one corporation are exchanged for some or all of the shares of another corporation. However neither of the corporation ceases to exist.”
PSE data showed ABLE and its subsidiaries or affiliates operating around 10,536 machines installed in 153 affiliated bingo parlors.
ABLE is defined as” providing amusement and recreation to the public in traditional electronic, pulltabs, and rapid bingo games.”
(to be continued)