POGOs Banned By Another Philippine City Amid Crackdown

Posted on: July 4, 2023, 08:20h. 

Last updated on: July 4, 2023, 10:46h.

Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) continue to run into trouble in the country amid allegations of widespread human trafficking and other crimes. The city of Pasig already banned them from operating there last year, and the city of Valenzuela has now followed suit.

Valenzuela Mayor Wes Gatchalian making a public appearance
Valenzuela Mayor Wes Gatchalian making a public appearance. He has implemented a complete ban on POGOs and online gambling in the city. (Image: Philippine Information Agency)

Valenzuela Mayor Wes Gatchalian announced the decision today, reportedly launching a preemptive strike. He stated in his announcement, “I just preempted [POGOs’] impact before it penetrates Valenzuela. I don’t want to get to the point when issues involving POGOs will affect our city.”

The prohibitive measures extend beyond just the gaming operators. In addition, there is now a ban on small-town lotteries (STL), eSabong, online poker and “anything online, basically.”

Cutting Off Online Gaming

Gatchalian stated that the actions of POGOs aren’t limited to solitary crimes. Instead, they pave the way for a variety of illicit activities involving financial crimes, intimidation, and human trafficking.

Existing STLs will still be able to operate. However, Valenzuela won’t issue any new licenses. The moratorium will remain in place for the next five years, allowing the existing nine operators to maintain their control until then.

eSabong, online betting on cockfights, already received its ban on a national level, so the city-level prohibition isn’t a major surprise. There were also no existing licensed online poker sites in the city.

The mayor’s position is similar to an effort currently being discussed at the federal level. There’s been a push to ban all forms of online gambling in the Philippines as a result, in part, of the damage the POGO segment caused.

Gatchalian believes that law enforcement departments are spending too much time and resources investigating POGO-related issues. By blocking the operators, the police can concentrate on more important problems.

Violators of Valenzuela’s new laws face fines and possible prison time. Gatchalian promised to track down anyone breaking the rules and hit them with a fine of between PHP100,000 and 500,000 (US$1,810 and $9,050). They could also spend up to a year behind bars.

A National Call For the End of POGOs

POGO’s activities within the Philippines have come almost to a standstill of late. But what’s left has turned into a feeding ground for criminal organizations. Now, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senators Grace Poe, Risa Hontiveros, and Sherwin Gatchalian (Wes Gatchalian’s brother) are diligently striving to enforce a ban on all POGO activity.

Last week, in the latest example of the criminal element that has infiltrated the POGO segment, police raided a company accused of involvement in a human trafficking scam. Xinchuang Network Technology allegedly helped traffic more than 1,530 people from the Philippines, as well as China, Vietnam, Thailand, and other SE Asia countries.

Senator Gatchalian, who referenced statistics from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), recently stated that 58% of crimes associated with POGO involve abominable acts of human trafficking. The head of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, who has led investigations into the economic advantages of POGOs, has said that they’re a threat to the country’s national security.