PAGCOR Chief warns against banning Internet Gaming Licensees in the Philippines  

Jenny Ortiz 1 month ago
PAGCOR Chief warns against banning Internet Gaming Licensees in the Philippines  

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) expressed concerns over the potential consequences of banning Internet Gaming Licensees (IGLs), formerly known as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs). In a statement, PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Alejandro Tengco highlighted the risks associated with such a ban, suggesting that it could drive legitimate operators underground.  

“If this happens, it will become harder for us to monitor them, and the number of illegal operators would grow and pose a bigger headache to our law enforcement authorities,” Tengco said.  

Loss of government revenue  

Tengco emphasised that the government stands to lose substantial revenue if IGLs are banned. The estimated loss could exceed PHP20 billion (€315 million) annually. This financial blow would come with no guarantee that illegal activities would cease.  

“On top of these, the government will lose potential revenues of more than PHP20 billion (€315 million) annually, without any guarantee that illegal activities will stop,” he explained.  

Continuation of operations underground  

Tengco further warned that legitimate operators are unlikely to cease operations entirely if banned. Instead, they might simply hide their activities, taking their gaming equipment underground and continuing to operate without government oversight.  

“We have no guarantee that, once we ban the legitimate operators, they will simply close shop and return to their countries of origin where they are likely to face prosecution and jail, or worse,” he noted. “So, they will just go underground here in the Philippines and continue operating.”  

Increased risk of cybercrimes  

The PAGCOR chief also highlighted the increased risk of operators engaging in more harmful illegal activities if forced underground.  

“Worse, they could join those who are engaged in illegal activities like scamming, hacking, and other cybercrimes, which would cause bigger problems to us,” Tengco stated. “Once they are underground, we lose control over them.”  

Respect for legislative decisions  

Despite these concerns, Tengco expressed PAGCOR’s commitment to abide by the decisions made by Congress. He stressed the importance of intensified law enforcement and collaboration among all sectors to address the underlying issues of criminality associated with IGLs.  

“It is the prerogative of our lawmakers to outlaw IGLs if they believe it will solve our problems,” Tengco said. “However, for us, the real problem is the criminal syndicates masquerading as POGOs. It is only through intensified law enforcement and the cooperation of all sectors that we would be able to address the problem of criminality.”  

In an earlier statement, PAGCOR maintained that alien crime syndicates are security threats and not IGLs. Earlier this week, several Philippine senators renewed their call to ban offshore gaming operators in the country citing crimes linked to their operations.   

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said the government to needs acknowledge the significant problems associated with offshore gaming operators and to swiftly implement a ban on their operations.  The call for a ban was echoed by Senators Risa Hontiveros and Win Gatchalian. 

Surge in offshore gaming revenue praised

Meanwhile, state media Philippine News Agency reported that Albay Representative Joey Salceda, Chairperson of the Philippines House Ways and Means Committee, lauded the PAGCOR for generating PHP5.1 billion (€80.32 million) in revenue from IGLs in 2023. 

Salceda said that PAGCOR’s strategy focused on enforcing regulations and eliminating “bad and mediocre” licensees, rather than dismantling the entire industry. He noted a significant reduction in the number of Chinese workers employed by offshore gaming operators, from a peak of 200,000 to the current 8,500 direct Chinese hires. Meanwhile, Filipinos now make up 25,000 of the 100,000 total direct or indirect hires. 

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