Controversy Arises Over the Connection Between Gambling Apps and Digital Banks in the Philippines

Posted on: November 15, 2023, 03:12h.

Last updated on: November 15, 2023, 03:12h.

Concerns over the relationship between digital banks and gambling in the Philippines have prompted government intervention. House of Representatives Majority Leader Erwin Tulfo, alongside fellow lawmakers, filed House Resolution (HR) 1464 this week in an effort to determine if there is anything shady going on.

Philippine actress and model Liza Soberano promoting the digital bank Maya
Philippine actress and model Liza Soberano promoting the digital bank Maya. The bank is under scrutiny for a relationship with gambling apps. (Image: Maya via YouTube)

The resolution seeks to empower the government to investigate the legality of gambling links found on at least one digital bank’s platform. There are currently six digital banks the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the country’s central bank, has licensed.

Maya Digital Savings Bank, Uno, Tonik, CIMB, Union Bank and GoTyme Bank make up the list and are under scrutiny. However, only Maya has links to gambling apps on its platform.

Undermining Gaming Regulations

Lawmakers are eager to ascertain whether the BSP is aware of the connection between the digital bank and gambling activities. Tulfo believes that if these gambling apps are operating within the bounds of the law, it raises questions about the efficacy of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) in monitoring and regulating them appropriately.

The investigation also delves into whether bank regulators should allow the inclusion of gambling apps within the digital platform of a savings bank. It raises concerns about potential impacts on financial stability, responsible gambling, and consumer welfare.

The filing of HR 1464 signals the government’s commitment to addressing potential risks associated with the convergence of digital banking and gambling. With the increasing prevalence of digital banking platforms, lawmakers are keen on ensuring that regulatory authorities are equipped to safeguard the financial sector’s integrity.

The inquiry reflects a broader conversation about the evolving landscape of financial services as digital-only banks become more prevalent.

Online Gambling a Hot Topic

Senator Win Gatchalian has been leading a call for the expulsion of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) from the country in a bid to combat transnational crimes. He has now found additional support from the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).

The agency said in a statement that shutting down or permanently suspending POGO operations and related illegal activities significantly outweighs the revenue the segment provides. It would contribute to a reduction in human trafficking, forced labor, kidnapping, and other criminal activities across the country.

It was recently discovered that Chinese nationals working for the Smart Web Technology POGO in Pasay City were able to illegally receive government ID cards. This revelation has intensified worries about the infiltration of organized crime linked to POGOs. The illicit acquisition included Alien Certificate of Registration, Alien Employment Permit, and Police Clearance ID cards.

PAGCOR has asserted that it is cracking down on POGOs through its new Internet Gaming Licensing Regulations framework, mandating online operators to apply for a new license. However, the extent of illegal activities associated with entities like Smart Web raises questions about the thoroughness of these measures.

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