POGOs: Licensed Controversy or Illegal Operations?

Discover PAGCOR's role in regulating POGOs in the Philippines, the controversy, and the economic impact of a ban.

POGOs, or Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, have been a subject of controversy in the Philippines for years. As of June 2023, there are 33 licensed POGOs listed by PAGCOR, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation. PAGCOR is a state-owned gaming firm and regulator, responsible for regulating the gambling industry and generating revenue to fund infrastructure, provide aid during natural disasters, promote tourism, and eradicate illegal gambling activities. In 2007, PAGCOR’s reign was extended for another 25 years to continue controlling the gambling industry and providing funds for the Philippine government.

While the total ban on illegal POGOs is uncontroversial, the existence of properly sanctioned, fully licensed POGOs is a subject of debate. Some lawmakers have called for a total ban, citing concerns about the country’s reputation, social and moral impact, and criminal activities associated with illegal POGOs. However, according to Philippines House, Ways & Means Committee Chairman, Senator Joey Salceda, a total ban on POGOs is not the solution. He argues that a total ban would only create an entire underground sector.

POGOs’ Economic Contribution

POGOs make a crucial contribution to the Philippine economy. In 2019, POGOs contributed significant tax revenue, and a total ban could lead to the closure of small to medium-sized property businesses and push rental rates back to the levels in the early 2000s. Several jurisdictions have already banned POGOs, including Valenzuela City and Pasig City. However, a total ban on POGOs could lead to estimated annual losses, according to industry data collected by Property consultancy firm Leechiu Property Consultants, Inc. (LPC).

PAGCOR’s Efforts to Crack Down on Illegal POGOs

PAGCOR is taking significant steps to crack down on illegal POGOs. The organization has implemented stringent measures to prevent illegal online gaming activities and ensure fair play and competition. PAGCOR has cooperated with the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Immigration, and Office of Cybercrime to enforce stricter regulatory policies.

POGOs have been operating illegally since 2003, employing around 80,000 overseas workers. In response, PAGCOR has revoked operating licenses and canceled visas for POGO workers. The Department of Labor and Employment has issued warnings about the risks of working for illegal POGOs, including significantly lower wages and possible abduction or human trafficking.

Recent Raid on POGO Xinchuang

In June 2023, the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Cybercrime Group raided POGO Xinchuang’s premises in Las Piñas City, rescuing over 2,500 people suspected of being trafficking victims. PAGCOR issued a show cause order to Xinchuang Network Technology Inc. and ordered the company to cease all offshore gaming activities pending the completion of the investigation.

PAGCOR’s Commitment to Safeguarding the Industry

PAGCOR’s Chairman and CEO, Alejandro H Tengco, has reiterated the commitment to curb illegal POGOs and safeguard the integrity of the industry. PAGCOR will continue to monitor the lawfulness of the activities of its accredited licensees and service providers and impose sanctions and penalties for criminal acts.

Tengco will deliver the opening keynote address at the upcoming conference in Manila, endorsed by PAGCOR. The event will take place from July 19-22 at the SMX, Manila’s largest expo center.

In conclusion, while POGOs are not without controversy, a total ban may not be the solution, and their contribution to the Philippine economy must be considered. PAGCOR is taking a strong stance against illegal POGOs to ensure fair play and competition in the gaming industry. The organization has implemented stricter regulatory policies and cooperated with other government agencies to crack down on illegal activities. PAGCOR’s commitment to safeguarding the industry’s integrity will continue to be a top priority.