The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp is looking forward to more happy days. A long-term project is beginning to come together for the Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs), and a number of operators have returned to work.
The PAGCOR Assistant Vice President for Offshore Gaming Licenses Jose Tria announced at a meeting of the House appropriations committee that two POGO hubs are being installed. These hubs would help expand the regional distribution of POGOs in the Philippines, making them easier to control in principle. Both sites are located in Cavite ‘s old Island Cove and in the Clark Economic Region, and are expected to be completed soon.
“We hope that they can continue with the construction so that we can already start…relocating some of the operators and service providers which have been granted by the BIR [Bureau of Internal Revenue] their clearances,” Tria noted.
Tria also noted that two other sites were considered, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic could not commence construction.
This progress satisfied Probinsyano Ako Party-list Representative Bonito Singson. “I suppose this will address our general concerns about POGO operations. We can now concentrate on raising PAGCOR’s capability to raise funds for the government,” he said.
Originally, PAGCOR was urged to create hubs for POGOs in 2019 as a way to focus the industry and make it easier to regulate. By encouraging operators with longer licences to transfer to a centre, lawmakers theorised that they would be easier to track and tax, and fears that POGOs could be a front line for a Chinese surveillance operation.
PAGCOR Corporate Secretary Jun Sanosa also stressed at the hearing that only POGOs compliant with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) have been permitted to resume operations. Although it took some time to get through the pandemic earlier, Tria commented it 29 operators have now returned to work.
Lawmakers also questioned what PAGCOR is doing to counter the alleged rise in POGO criminality. Sanosa acknowledged that they partner with law enforcement to resolve problems, but stressed that a distinction must be made between law enforcement, licenced POGOs, and so-called non-licensed NOGOs, or operators who cause much of the problems.