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Supreme Court dismisses three petitions contesting PAGCOR’s authority over offshore gaming operators

March 7, 2024 Philippines Industry Updates

This week, the Supreme Court of the Philippines rejected several petitions challenging the jurisdiction of gaming regulator PAGCOR to oversee the nation’s Internet Gaming Licensees (IGLs), previously known as POGOs.

As per local media reports, the three petitions, filed by the Union for National Development and Good Governance Philippines (Unilad), the Anti-Trapo Movement of the Philippines Inc., and lawyer Jovencio Evangelista, argued that PAGCOR lacked the authority to regulate offshore gaming operators due to the absence of online gaming during the agency’s establishment in 1983. Evangelista further contended that online gaming wasn’t addressed when an amended law on PAGCOR was enacted in 2007.

Unilad’s petition asserted that PAGCOR lacked the authority to regulate online gambling targeting foreign players, while the Anti-Trapo Movement claimed that PAGCOR violated its charter by granting franchises to other entities.

PAGCOR defended its authority, citing its mandate to regulate all games of chance under Presidential Decree, with few exceptions, including both pre-existing games and those developed later.

In its ruling favoring PAGCOR, the Supreme Court questioned the petitioners’ decision to directly approach the highest court without sufficient grounds and dismissed all three petitions, opting not to delve into the constitutionality and legality of the 2016 rules and regulations surrounding POGOs.

The Court noted, “Regrettably, the petitioners failed to present exceptionally compelling reasons for seeking redress directly from this Court. They did not adequately justify why preventing PAGCOR from regulating and mandating the registration of offshore gaming operations is of paramount importance, necessitating immediate attention from this Court and a deviation from the principle of court hierarchy.”

“Matters concerning the validity and constitutionality of the [2016 rules and regulations] could have been properly addressed by the Court of Appeals, which holds jurisdiction over the subject matter and has nationwide authority over its rulings.”

“In sum, due to the petitioners’ disregard for the hierarchy of courts and failure to substantiate the elements of judicial review, this Court refrains from scrutinizing the constitutionality and legality of the [2016 rules and regulations].”

Amid mounting concerns about the illicit activities of many POGO operators, PAGCOR has undertaken efforts to reform the industry, placing all POGOs on probation last year and subjecting each to a more stringent vetting process under revised regulatory guidelines.

PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Alejandro Tengco disclosed last month that the agency had significantly reduced the number of IGLs from approximately 250 before the probationary period to about 75 after issuing new licenses.

Original Story by: IAG

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