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Philippine senator takes contrary stance on POGOs – total ban means higher taxes

August 7, 2023 Philippines Industry Updates

Senator says ‘bigger picture’ needs to be looked at; gains through government agency PAGCOR highlighted; ‘ some are bad, but the government is earning,’ said the senator.

Original story by Jon Viktor Cabuenas for GMA Integrated News with insights from the ACN Newsdesk

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero on Sunday warned that banning Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) could prompt tax hikes to cover the prospective foregone revenues.

In a statement, Escudero—who leads the Senate Committee on Finance—said the lost income from banning POGOs would need a new source, which would come in the form of higher taxes.

“If we close them down, we may have to increase taxes because we need to cover the lost income from them. For this, I’d like to look at the big picture,” he said.

“Look, some are bad, but that doesn’t mean all are bad. Some are bad but the government is earning. PAGCOR’s income increased by several hundred percent due to POGO,” he added, referring to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

PAGCOR reported a 66.16% growth in 2022, as it booked P58.96 billion versus P35.48 billion in 2021. Gaming operations accounted for P55.05 billion. The government agency is also looking towards privatization as well as modernizing towards having online operations.

National government figures have also made pronouncements in support of these recent developments against POGOs, with the country’s Finance Secretary saying that the revenue is not worth retaining the industry. Earlier this year, a component city of Metro Manila  issued a city-wide ban against POGOs and other online gambling activities.

Filipino solons have likewise pushed the Marcos government to issue an absolute ban, with one senator saying that online gambling operators get away with ‘billions of unpaid taxes Other senators have cited POGOs as avenues for human trafficking and other crime.

Just last week, authorities raided an alleged POGO and ‘cybercrime hub’ in Pasay City, Metro Manila; a total of 650 workers, 464 of whom are Filipinos and 186 foreigners of various nationalities, were taken into custody.

Police early this year also rescued around 3,000 Filipino and foreign workers while serving a search warrant on a Las Piñas City POGO firm allegedly involved in human trafficking and other illegal activities.

“I read in the news that PAGCOR has given all POGOs provisional licenses pending review, and that at the end of the review, will know how many will be allowed to operate. This is a good first step for PAGCOR to give temporary licenses pending a review of all as well,” Escudero said.

“The review of POGO is a good start but [PAGCOR] should coordinate with law-enforcement agencies, not to clear with them but of course so that it knows what’s going on to those it issued licenses,” he added.

Under its charter, PAGCOR is mandated to regulate the gaming industry, generate revenues for the Philippine government’s socio-civic and national development programs, and help promote the tourism industry.

Read more about this report on how much losses in national revenue the total ban of POGOs would incur according to real estate leaders in the Philippines, as well as the loss of jobs by a POGO associations in the country, read the original story by Viktor Cabuenas for GMA Integrated News here:

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