Casinos for youAfter increasing crime rates and a lack of promised revenue generation by offshore land-based gambling operators in the Philippines, lawmakers want PAGCOR to shut the sector down ahead of a full review and revamp process.
The Philippines has always had an unstable relationship with Philippine offshore gambling operators (POGO). However, for the most part, the worst that came of it was unnecessary but manageable tension with China as these land-based casinos tried to entice Chinese gamblers.
However, the recent revelation that criminals behind POGOs have been involved in far more damaging and heinous crimes in the region has caused a slew of lawmakers and politicians to demand immediate closure and punitive legal action.
Criminal Charges Bring POGOs Under Fire
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), which oversees all gambling in the region, has come under fire after a multi-division raid in Pasay City led to the rescue of seven hundred people who being trafficked.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said:Quote
"With the proliferation of these illegal POGO operations, it is quite obvious that Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) needs to ramp up and do a better job of shutting down POGO operations in the country."
Speaking to the press, Villanueva claims that they do not believe that this is not an isolated incident and will continue to pursue any leads they receive to bring the practice to a halt in the Philippines.
It has also been noted that these illegal gambling operations are becoming more heavily involved in racketeering, crypto scams, and other forms of crime.
Senate Committee Calls POGOs Useless
Speaking to Asia Gaming Brief, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Sherwin Gatchalian, spoke openly about offshore gambling operators and how they are limiting the country’s attempts to evolve gambling into a viable and legal industry.
He takes issues with POGOs for the following reasons:
- They contribute less than 1% of the country's revenue.
- They are beginning to become involved in scams and other illegal activities.
- They create tension with China and surrounding regions.
While he recognises that there are some licensed and regulated offshore casino operators in the country, they are lumped in with unscrupulous operators, which is hurting the country’s international reputation.
He feels it would benefit PAGCOR to shut down the entire sector completely. Then, begin to rebuild the country's legal gambling industry from scratch with the proper legal frameworks to deal with the increased crime rates and do adequate background checks on licensed operators.
Does PAGCOR Have The Headspace to Clean House?
The gambling regulator has pushed back against this call for an immediate shutdown of all offshore-run gambling venues in and around the Philippines. In response to the call from local lawmakers, PAGCOR has said that it believes it can address the lack of income and the issues surrounding illegal activities and gang associations without retracting all licenses.
Commenting on this assertion, Gatchalian noted that the biggest issue is that PAGCOR is too deeply motivated by the money it makes from gambling operators to be trusted to act effectively.Quote
“There is a fundamental flaw in the structure of PAGCOR. It is a regulator and an operator in one.”
He believes that you cannot have one entity responsible for driving operators to generate more money and then have it oversee the enforcement of regulations limiting how much money it makes.
The ideal solution in the short term is for the Philippines to have a separate regulatory body and an operational oversight body. PAGCOR needs to focus on its regulatory responsibilities without the need to concern itself about revenue generation.
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