PAGCOR: Nearly 200 small-time POGOs closed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 8) — A regulatory body said close to 200 "fly-by-night" Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) have been shut down in the last few months.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) chairman and chief executive officer Andrea Domingo said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the police have been continuously conducting raids on POGOs that are suspected to be operating illegally.

"The last count which was a few months ago, they’ve already closed down 170 small operations because these are small, fly-by-night operations. But I think by now they should be reaching about 200 because we get an average of about 10 certifications from NBI and PNP (Philippine National Police) on who they suspect to be illegal," she said.

PAGCOR stopped accepting POGO applications in August amid concerns about national security.

There are currently 58 licensed POGO operators in the country, while three other groups have pending applications.

Domingo said the country benefits from POGOs, saying real estate developers earn around P20 billion a year from these companies, while government collects billions of pesos in income and value added taxes.

"And also the BIR because they expect to collect ₱24 billion on income taxes, and I think they have estimated that the foreign workers here, they probably spend about ₱12.5 billion a month on their needs, services, and others. So BIR should be collecting ₱1.25 billion in VAT," she said.

However, she also said government is not keen on allowing new POGOs to operate in the country, even if an opportunity to attract more POGOs has emerged after the prohibition on online gaming in Cambodia.

"As a courtesy and respect for the Chinese government closing down the online gaming in Cambodia, we will not accept any more applications for online gaming. We do not want to be the basin for the fall out in Cambodia. We just want to stand on our own, transparent and fair play. So we will not benefit from it in terms of having more operators," said Domingo.

In July, PAGCOR approved the creation of two "self-contained" POGO hubs to limit the interaction between Filipinos and Chinese workers, after complaints about the behavior of the the foreign workers were reported in the media.

Domingo said this arrangement would be beneficial to the foreign workers because PAGCOR offices will be set up in these hubs. This, she said, would help in the prevention of crimes.

"“There are some disadvantages to the hubs with workers always working together and living together, so we also want to inspect their living conditions to make sure they have dignified living conditions. That is currently under review,” she added.

CNN Philippines' Sandra Zialcita contributed to this report.