PAGCOR says alien crime syndicates are security threat, not POGOs; Philippine Senators call for comprehensive ban  

Jenny Ortiz 4 days ago
PAGCOR says alien crime syndicates are security threat, not POGOs; Philippine Senators call for comprehensive ban  

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has shifted the focus from legitimate offshore gaming operators, known as POGOs, to alien hacking and scam syndicates (AHaSS) as the primary threat to national security. In a press release, PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Alejandro Tengco emphasised the importance of distinguishing between licenced operators and criminal entities.  

“To us, the real threat are the alien hacking and scam syndicates who operate underground, and they are the ones that our law enforcement agencies are trying to locate and dismantle,” Tengco stated. He highlighted that legitimate Internet Gaming Licensees (IGLs) significantly contribute to the government’s revenues, adding more than Php5 billion (€79 million) to PAGCOR’s gross revenues in 2023.  

Cooperation with authorities  

Tengco assured the public of PAGCOR‘s full cooperation with law enforcement agencies in combating these criminal syndicates. He urged citizens to report any suspicious activities in their communities, noting that these criminal groups are typically armed and dangerous.  

“We should not blame and demonize our licenced gaming operators because these are closely monitored by PAGCOR,” Tengco explained. “Our licensees pay taxes, and they help provide legitimate jobs and livelihood to a lot of people.”  

Strict monitoring and compliance  

PAGCOR has implemented strict monitoring measures to ensure that licenced gaming operators adhere to regulatory standards. Tengco mentioned that PAGCOR has embedded monitoring teams in the physical venues of all licenced operators, including land-based casinos, to ensure compliance with the terms of their licenses. Those found violating these provisions face fines and penalties, and in severe cases, license revocation and bond forfeiture.  

“We do not need to outlaw POGOs; what we need to do is intensify anti-crime operations against suspected alien hackers, against scammers and cyber-criminals who are usually hiding in highly secured buildings and compounds,” he asserted.  

Focus on real threats  

Tengco reiterated that these criminal syndicates are not engaged in legitimate offshore gaming activities. “These criminal syndicates are not engaged in offshore gaming at all, and even if they are, they are doing it illegally. So, they are the real threat, and we must go after them with everything that we have,” he concluded.  

Philippine Senators renew calls for POGO ban amid rising crime rates  

PAGCOR’s statement comes as several Philippine Senators renewed their call to ban POGOs in the country. A local media reported that Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III has reiterated his call for the government to acknowledge the significant problems associated with POGO and to swiftly implement a ban on their operations.  

Pimentel emphasised the need for decisive action during ongoing Senate hearings on crimes linked to the offshore gambling industry. He criticised the current approach as overly complicated and ineffective, stressing that the priority should be clear policies to regulate the industry effectively.  

Senator Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, has been leading investigations, particularly into a POGO hub raided in Bamban, Tarlac, last March.  

Advocacy for comprehensive ban  

Pimentel advocated for a total prohibition of both legal and illegal POGO operations, highlighting the need for a firm government stance and separate criminal investigations based on evidence.  

Pimentel supported recommendations from Senators Hontiveros and Sherwin Gatchalian to involve the National Security Council in addressing the POGO ban, though he cautioned against declaring it a national security threat. 

Upcoming SiGMA event: SiGMA East Europe 2024, 2 – 4 September. Find all the details here. 

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