POGO salaries outstrip call center wages in PH

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A man tries to play an online game during the Phil-Asian Gaming Expo (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) have given bigger salaries in the Philippines compared to call centers, Leechiu Property Consultants said Monday.

In its third quarter report, the real estate firm said these Internet-based casinos targeting foreign gamblers is now granting $9 billion (about ₱504 billion) in annual salaries, versus the estimated $7.5 billion (₱400 billion) paid out by companies in the information technology and business process management (IT-BPM) sector in the country.

For the first time, POGOs have also surpassed IT-BPM companies in terms of demand for office space. These online casinos have driven 34 percent or 386,000 square meters (sq.m.) of the demand nationwide, versus the 355,000 sq.m. sought by outsourcing hubs.

Demand for office space remains concentrated in Manila, which took up 990,000 sq.m. of the 1.14 million sq.m. of commercial leases. Cebu trails at 88,000 sq.m., followed by Pampanga (36,000 sq.m.), Davao (8,000 sq.m.), and Batangas (6,000 sq.m.).

READ: Despite China call for ban, Duterte says PH needs online gambling

POGOs based in Metro Manila have been aggressively expanding, having doubled their take-up "despite the various issues surrounding the industry," Leechiu said in its report.

The government has implemented a crackdown on POGOs for a number of reasons. The Department of Finance  wants all foreign workers employed by the sector to pay income taxes here, which he expects to be at ₱2 billion monthly. The Labor department has also been keeping an eye out for jobs which could have been taken away from Filipinos.

READ: Finance chief wants gov’t to shut down POGOs that don’t pay taxes

Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has cautioned about national security, noting that foreign POGOs that mostly employ Chinese workers could shift operations to spying. In August, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation stopped accepting new POGO license applications.

In terms of leased space, outsourcing offices remain king as they occupy 47 percent of the 15-million sq.m. commercial space in the country, versus the 1.4 million sq.m. tapped by POGOs, the consultancy firm said.

"Since the current administration (Q2 2016), offshore gaming has been the fastest growing industry in the Philippine office market," Leechiu added, pointing out that these offices are clustered in Bay City, Makati, Alabang and Quezon City.

Areas emerging as potential POGO centers include Clark in Pampanga, Cavite, Laguna, and Cebu, the report added.

Leechiu added that the POGO expansion is also seen driving up home rentals and demand, which is currently at $680 million yearly.