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Philippine Legislator Seeks Immediate Shutdown of POGOs Within 3 Months

March 28, 2023 Philippines Crime & LegalIndustry Updates

The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the Philippine Senate has presented a report urging the President to shut down the Philippines Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) sector right away.

According to a report by GMA Network, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, a steadfast opponent of POGOs, claimed last week that the “POGO experiment” had failed to deliver the economic benefits it had promised and had instead “created new avenues for crime and corruption, damaging our country’s reputation among diplomatic allies, foreign investors, potential tourists, and even our own countrymen.”

“The available information and facts all support the notion that enough is enough. It is time to permanently outlaw offshore gaming in the Philippines. Gatchalian also said he would bring up the issue in a Senate resolution, which would recommend things like helping local Filipino POGO workers who would be affected by the ban, collecting all unpaid taxes and license fees owed by POGOs right away, and revoking all work visas and employment permits given to foreign POGO workers.

Tax evasion and threats to the Philippines’ relationship with China are two of the report’s main concerns. According to Gatchalian, POGOs underreported gaming income by Php34.2 billion (US$630 million), resulting in Php1.7 billion (US$31.3 million) in unpaid taxes.

“We can confidently presume that Chinese nationals are the most active POGO users by using the currency and employment statistics as proxies,” he said.

As gambling is prohibited in China, this is a concern. In essence, Chinese people are using offshore gaming sites hosted in the Philippines as a way to get around Chinese law.

On Friday, Sonny Angara, a different senator, stated that he agreed with Gatchalian’s stance that POGOs should be shut down but urged that, if such an extreme move was chosen, lawful POGOs should be given time to wind down their activities.

According to Philippine News Agency, Angara stated, “We respect the work and findings of the committees who have painstakingly done their work examining this problem and there is proof that their presence has had some negative consequences, especially in the peace and order sector.

In contrast, Angara stated in a statement, “I don’t feel three months is appropriate time and notice to wrap up activities, especially for those who have made major investments.”

Given that they were initially urged to invest by the government, a longer period would be more logical and justified.

Separately, Gatchalian asked Congress last week to approve legislation that would formally divide PAGCOR’s regulator position from its casino operations arm and establish a new organization to handle the agency’s regulatory responsibilities. In the end, PAGCOR would be reduced to being a gambling operator only.

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