Though President Duterte rejected the demands of the Chinese to completely ban online gambling in the country as he said that it is a major contributor to the country’s tax revenues, back home he has gone tough on POGOs and it seems that the authorities are bent on cleaning the industry.
POGOs have often been associated with increased crimes, especially gambling-related kidnappings. Earlier in the year, Senator De Lima had also urged the government to take decisive action and launch a drive against crimes associated with the POGO industry; later she resonated with China’s demand to completely ban offshore online gambling in the Philippines.
In what seems to be a massive cleaning up of the industry, the law enforcement officials in the Philippines arrested over 400 people associated with POGOs.
It is reported that about 60 companies have a valid online gaming license in the country, however, the number of illegal immigrants from mainland China who find employment in the country’s offshore gambling industry is in thousands.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCor), the gambling regulatory authority has already announced that they would not be issuing any new license and will formulate new policies that it hopes would be effective in tackling the issues associated with the offshore online gaming industry.
A major drive against online gambling last week saw the arrest of some 342 suspected illegal workers, all Chinese nationals. Fortunato Manahan, Intelligence Chief for the Philippines Bureau of Immigration, said that the arrests were made after a POGO operator was employing workers illegally without having a license from the gambling authority.
The Intelligence Bureau Chief said: “We had reason to suspect that the company is a front for illegal cyber activities and investment scams. We coordinated this operation with the Chinese government, which confirmed the company’s involvement in illegal activities, victimizing mostly their compatriots in China.”
Gambling is banned in China. As such, regional offshore online gaming operators tend to target customers in mainland China. While Cambodia – which was emerging as a regional online gambling hub – has completely banned all forms of online gambling, it is the Philippines that is yet to sort out how to go between China’s consistent calls to ban online gambling and POGOs.