PAGCOR Acknowledges Shortcomings in Monitoring POGOs, Intensifies Offensive

Published on: August 3, 2023, 08:16h.

Last updated on: August 3, 2023, 08:16h.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR), the country’s gaming regulator and current operator of state-run casinos, is taking action to clean up the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) space. All POGOs are required to apply for a new license as part of this effort.

Philippine President Bongbong Marcos in a public address
Philippine President Bongbong Marcos in a public address about PAGCOR. The country’s gaming regulator continues to crack down on POGOs. (Image: Office of the President of the Philippines)

Operators have until September 17th to formally reapply for their licenses. This updated requirement underscores the importance of obtaining the appropriate license and undergoing a comprehensive examination of business operations.

PAGCOR acknowledges its past failures in properly regulating the POGO industry as it embarks on this review. Past instances of human trafficking and money laundering have been linked to some operators.

An Overhaul for Transparency and Legality

PAGCOR will extensively scrutinize the owners of POGO businesses as part of its mission to ensure complete transparency and legality within the industry. Any involvement in illicit activities will be met with swift and appropriate punishments.

These stringent measures are supported by lawyer Jessa Fernandez, the VP of PAGCOR’s licensing division. Fernandez is committed to upholding the integrity of POGO operations.

Fernandez emphasizes that licenses will not be granted to companies conducting business beyond the scope of their current permit. Similarly, failure to comply with regulations or obtain a license within the specified timeframe may result in cancellation and the inability to recover the permit.

PAGCOR’s board approved the new rules and probationary period for POGOs less than a month ago. The exercise was initiated on July 17th, and the recent announcement reinforces the seriousness of the process.

This review is expected to go beyond a mere formality. In addition to evaluating personnel and day-to-day operations, PAGCOR is imposing stricter restrictions on license approvals.

These restrictions include an increased capital requirement. Previously, POGOs were required to show PHP15 million in capital and pay PHP3 million upfront. Now, the minimum capital is PHP100 million and the upfront payment is PHP25 million.

Each POGO’s premises must not exceed 25,000 square meters, and a separate license is necessary for each property. Licenses will have a validity period of two years.

Continued Challenges with POGOs

The Philippine National Police – Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) recently revealed that 17 fugitives were found in POGO establishments in Clark, Pampanga, and Las Piñas City. Among these individuals, nine were discovered in Sun Valley Clark, while the other eight were reportedly employed at a POGO in Almanza Uno, Las Piñas City.

The detained individuals were turned over to their respective embassies in the Philippines, as their countries of origin were not provided.

A group of legislators, led by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, consistently express support for banning POGOs due to their association with criminal activities and their negative impact on society. These lawmakers also advocate for transitioning PAGCOR from casino management to a dedicated regulatory role.

Currently, neither of these initiatives poses a significant threat to the remaining operators or the regulator.

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