Philippines Government Threatens Illegal Online Gambling Operations with Prosecution

Posted on: July 1, 2020, 07:33h. 

Last updated on: July 1, 2020, 11:48h.

The Philippines’ government is warning its citizens to avoid engaging in online gambling and threatening prosecution if they do, pointing to the link between illegal gambling and organized crime.

Philippines online gambling POGO
The Philippines says only licensed online gambling firms, such as Global GI Group pictured here at a gaming trade show last year, can participate in internet casino businesses. (Image: Nikkei Asian Review)

In a statement posted to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) website, the federal government reminds people that all gambling on the internet is illegal.

PAGCOR has received information that certain persons have been organizing illegal bingo games and online gambling and using Facebook to promote such illegal activities,” the regulator stated.

The public is warned not to patronize such schemes due to the risk of being scammed, identity theft, and credit card fraud. Betting on such illegal gambling activities is also a crime,” the regulator continued.

The agency added that the government will prosecute persons who disregard the warning because there is a “strong link between illegal gambling and organized crime.”

Online Gaming Pandemic

While the Philippines bans its own people from gambling online, it’s one of the world’s richest hubs of internet casino operations. Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators — or POGOs as they’re known — have become a massive tax generator for Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

POGOs predominantly cater to those in China where nearly all forms of gambling are prohibited, the exception being the state-run Welfare Lottery. Macau, the world’s richest casino market, is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic and operates under its own laws regarding gambling.

As the COVID-19 pandemic halted travel and closed casinos throughout Asia, many gamblers have turned to online gambling sites. Chinese authorities recently announced the arrests of more than 11,500 people suspected to be engaged in a cross-border gambling enterprise. China’s Ministry of Public Security says the operation took in $32.3 billion in bets.

PAGCOR says only those licensed to conduct online gambling are permitted to run an internet gaming site. Sixty entities currently hold POGO licenses in the Philippines.

POGO Campaign

China has called on the Philippines to revoke the licenses and close the online gaming businesses. But after meeting with People’s Republic President Xi Jinping, Rodrigo said it’s not China’s decision to tell the Philippines what to do, and POGOs aid the country far too greatly.

PAGCOR recently unveiled a campaign to hype the benefits of the gaming enterprises. In a pamphlet titled, “The Truth About POGO: A Primer,” PAGCOR dispels several rumors regarding the internet businesses.

PAGCOR rejects allegations that the large influx of Chinese nationals to the Philippines to work in the POGO centers has resulted in an increase in prostitution.

PAGCOR says the Senate hearings regarding the issue “did not address the deeper issues behind prostitution.

To begin with, it doesn’t even touch upon prostitution of Filipinos— whether by other nationalities or by fellow Filipinos. The number of Filipino prostitutes is calculated at 800,000, including 100,000 children,” PAGCOR said.

PAGCOR additionally rejects claims that POGOs engage in illegal businesses, as the majority of their customers are banned from accessing the sites in their home countries. “PAGCOR is working closely with the Chinese embassy in the Philippines regarding the crackdown of Chinese nationals with criminal records,” the campaign declares.

The gaming regulator finally disputed claims that POGOs are a spy network for China, and that some of the Chinese workers in the iGaming centers – many of which are near Filipino military bases – are relaying information back to the People’s Republic.