Philippine casino hit by deadly arson attack reopens

Manila (AFP) - A Philippine casino that was shut down after an armed attacker set fire to gambling rooms claiming the lives of 37 people reopened Thursday with enhanced security, authorities said.

Resorts World Manila (RWM) was allowed to resume operations after agreeing to implement tighter security and safety measures, regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) said.

The operator's licence had been suspended with Pagcor saying in the wake of the fire that "serious security lapses and deficiencies" contributed to the loss of life.

The victims died after gambling addict Jessie Javier Carlos, who police said later committed suicide by setting himself on fire, entered the casino and hotel complex on June 2 with an M4 automatic rifle and bottles of petrol.

He torched the gambling rooms and many casino employees and patrons were trapped in the blaze.

Pagcor also noted it allowed the complex to reopen after taking into account RWM's 6,000 employees and because the government was losing 14 million pesos ($280,000) in revenue for each day the casino was closed.

"RWM passed the Pagcor inspection that recognised how the enhancements and new emergency, safety and security protocols have been fortified since the June 2, 2017 incident," the casino firm said in a statement.

Police and fire officials have yet to determine whether the casino had failed to meet relevant security standards, but Pagcor assistant vice-president Carmelita Valdez said the ongoing investigations would not be affected by the reopening.

Philippine lawmakers have slammed the casino management for allegedly lax security at the complex.

A widely circulated security video showed the attacker easily gaining entry into the complex despite having an assault rifle.

The Philippines has been courting international investors as the Southeast Asian nation seeks to rival Las Vegas and Macau as a gaming destination.