Senator criticises PAGCOR’s regulation of POGOs

A PAGCOR senior manager was quizzed in a Senate hearing.
A PAGCOR senior manager was quizzed in a Senate hearing.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has claimed that PAGCOR has little understanding of POGOs despite having been regulating the industry for over six years.

The Philippines.- As the debate over a bill to ban Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) continues, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has come under fire for its role in their regulation. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has accused the regulator of having little knowledge of the online operators’ businesses.

PAGCOR senior manager Renfred Tan told a Senate hearing today (November 23) that the regulator expects POGO revenues to reach PHP10bn by 2027, surpassing the PHP8bn earned in 2019. However, Gatchalian quizzed Tan on gross gaming revenues, where POGO clients are located and the number of jobs that could be generated should revenues rise.

According to Rappler, Gatchalian slammed PAGCOR’s roadmap for POGO growth, saying: “I know that what you’ve written is just for compliance purposes, but this document you made is toilet paper, to be honest about it.

“We don’t understand the industry. We don’t even know the potential of this industry. You plan to increase revenue but you don’t know where to get it and you don’t know how many POGOs there are in the entire world. So we’re just going to allow them to continue but you don’t know the industry.”

In October, senator Gatchalian suggested that the Philippines could mitigate the impact of a ban on online gaming by growing the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. Gatchalian noted that POGOs contribute PHP34.68bn a year to the country or 1 per cent of GDP and that the loss of this could be mitigated by attracting BPO companies, which could take up office space left by gaming operators.

China, which is the presumed target for many POGOs, has urged the Philippines to stop online gambling. PAGCOR, however, recognised that it has not conducted studies of the risks if China finds a way to stop its citizens from gambling online.

Gatchalian said: “If you were a real business, you’d lose a substantial amount. You’re lucky that PAGCOR is a government-owned and controlled corporation.”

Senators are considering the possibility of making changes to the PAGCOR statute to separate its dual functions by privatising its gaming operations.

See also: The Philippines deports 21 more Chinese citizens connected with online gambling operations

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