The End of POGOs? PAGCOR Reports More Online Casinos Are Exiting the Philippines

It might be the end of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) as we know it. According to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), two POGOs have already left the country and more will follow them out of the Philippines.

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“There are others more that are leaving the Philippines,” said PAGCOR chairperson and CEO Andrea Domingo.

Fourteen POGOs have also ceased operations, according to PAGCOR assistant vice president for offshore gaming licensing Jose Tria.  A number of POGOs have already filed to cancel their licenses, while others have yet to file their official exit.

Tria explained that other countries with “better tax rates” and a “friendlier environment” were beginning to appeal to the decision-makers behind POGOs.

Before the pandemic, POGOs were a lucrative business that imported thousands of Chinese nationals to operate the offshore gambling business. The Philippines was an ideal destination for online casinos due to the low cost of operations, but circumstances changed when the pandemic hit.

POGOs have now had to limit their operations due to quarantine, while also facing scrutiny for unpaid taxes with the Bureau of Internal Revenue. POGO workers are also subject to strong criticism due to the controversies that surround the China-imported industry, which include “sex dens” for foreign workers, “VIP” treatment at immigration, and the supposed sail of “blacklist delisting.”

The “exodus” of POGOs will affect over 30,000 Filipinos who currently work for POGO companies, as well as the entire real estate market. Last year, POGOs overtook business process outsourcing (BPOs) in real estate and contributed over P6.4 billion in taxes. But according to the BIR, POGOs will owe the government P50 billion in unpaid franchise, corporate, and other taxes.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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