The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) has warned citizens in the country to be aware of the dangers of illegal gambling, following the receipt of reports about illegal online bingo games that are apparently being organised in the country.
The regulator says that these games, which have reportedly been promoted through Facebook, were exploiting the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic to steal players’ money, as well as obtaining financial information from unwary customers. And in a statement, the organisation reminded citizens that playing on these illegal games was considered a crime:
“Pacgor is committed to the prosecution of persons involved in such illegal activities, because of the strong link between illegal gambling and organised crime who are also engaged in credit card fraud, identity theft, money laundering, among others.”
The regulator’s warning follows a period of disruption associated with the pandemic. Philippines Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) were hit by an order to temporarily cease activities from 18 March, which was later relaxed to permit some operations to resume. But that relaxation was tied to a requirement that their tax affairs should be in order. This refers to the full rate of franchise tax owed to Pagcor, along with additional taxes due to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the monthly regulatory fees for April. But with many operators in arrears, there was a significant delay in resumption.
According to reports in the Philippines media, several POGOs have either announced that they are pulling out of the market, or have said they have plans to do so.
The POGOs have long been considered controversial, and the government of China has previously demanded the closure of the industry, due to perceptions over its targeting of Chinese nationals. But they make a significant contributor to the local economy, as well as employing over 31,000 people.
In addition they make a big contribution to the real estate sector through rent and lease payments.
But the sector has suffered significant losses. Figures for the quarter that ended on March 31 this year dropped 5.7% on the previous year. Land based casinos were closed from March 15, and although some facilities were open from June 8, at reduced capacity, larger gambling venues are unlikely to be given permission to reopen until later this month.