Gambling Operators in the Philippines Caught Up in Political Feud

6 May 2020

A week ago, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) allowed Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) partially reconvene operations as long as they adhered to the set Enhanced Community Quarantine guidelines that involved cutting down their manpower by 30%.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque later said that since all POGO clients are based overseas, POGOs were analogous to Philippine’s Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). The president of the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), Rey Untal, however, denied the matter, stating that despite POGOs and BPOs sharing an inessential similarity, POGOs are not part of BPO sector while giving his reasons to support his view.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also rejected the issue, stating that POGOs could be exempted from paying gaming license fees to PAGCOR as well as the 5% Franchise tax. He also observed difficulties by the Bureau of Internal Revenue in collecting taxes from POGOs as a result of the BPO squabble.

The public has, on the other hand, been rather unforgiving towards the POGOs, raising legitimate concerns over unfriendly hikes in rental rates of condos in Manila. The increase in housing prices is a result of the swelling demand for housing for POGO staff.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) came out strongly to support the government’s plan to gain revenue from POGOs as well as PAGCOR’s suggestion to move POGOs outside Metro Manila to distinctive areas. PEZA, however, cautioned that despite its ability to register buildings and land as economic zones, it doesn’t recognize IT/BPOs involved in online gambling. They went ahead to advise the government to establish POGO hubs in the Cagayan Valley Ecozone and the Aurora Economic Zone or on designated islands but not within Metro Manila or other cities.

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