The Philippines has been placed on Beijing’s blacklist of destinations targeting its nationals for gambling, as it’s unclear whether tourists are actually going to join Philippines Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs).
Local media outlet Rappler cited Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri as saying that he had been informed about the blacklist status by Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian during a courtesy call on Monday.
“Ambassador Huang said the Philippines is now part of a blacklist of tourist sites because they do not know if the tourist going there will be joining POGO operations,” he was cited as saying.
Beijing drew up a blacklist of jurisdictions accused of targeting its nationals for gambling purposes in August, 2020. That list has since been updated, but has never been made public. The Chinese government is mostly concerned about capital outflows, though in the case of the Philippines has specifically highlighted POGO issues.
The sector has been in the news recently due to a rise in kidnappings and other illegal activities.
PAGCOR’s POGO crackdown
Local regulator, the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) is working with other government agencies to clean up the sector, shutting down illegal operations and deporting thousands of illegal workers, mostly Chinese.
However, the activity has led to calls for an outright ban on iGaming.
In September, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva introduced a bill to outlaw all forms of online gambling, with a jail term of up to six months and a fine of up to PHP500,000 ($8,489).
Prior to the pandemic, POGOs had been a lucrative source of income for the government, providing a strong argument against a ban. Now though, it appears that tax collection will fall below expectations.
Local media reports that the Association of Service Providers and POGOs (ASPAP) said the industry is expecting to contribute P6 billion to P7 billion in taxes this year.
That’s well short of the P20 billion targeted by the government.
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