Warning: The Philippines Reminds Citizens not to Gamble as China Cracks Down on Offshore Operations
The Government of the Philippines has reiterated to its citizens that online gambling remains illegal in the country and that it will be taking steps against illegal operators.
“The public is warned not to patronize such schemes due to the risk of being scammed, identity theft, and credit card fraud,” said the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) in a statement.
“There’s also a strong link between illegal gambling and organized crime,” they added.
$30 billion illegal market
The news comes as the country’s powerful next-door neighbour China steps up its own efforts to crack down on cross-border gambling sites. Just last week, Chinese officials claimed to have shut down over 300 illegal online gambling operations, seizing over $30 billion worth of Yuan in the process.
China has also started a new illegal gambling “reporting platform.” Citizens will be encouraged to “anonymously” report people they know that they suspect of using, working for, or operating illegal gambling operators.
Although gambling is fully illegal in both nations, online casinos based in the Philippines (called Philippine Offshore Gambling Operations, or POGOs) have been a huge source of tax income for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
The industry, which hires vast amounts of office space in Manila and employs hundreds of thousands, has reached a détente with the government in recent years. They agree not to let Filipinos use their services, and the government turns a blind eye to them illegally supplying Chinese players.
Although he has personally and publicly expressed his distaste for gambling on multiple occasions, the controversial strongman president is reluctant to cave in to Chinese pressure on the issue.
Despite international condemnation of his policies on a range of issues, including his relentless war on drug dealers and users and his stance on homosexuality, Duterte’s policies are generally popular with the Philippine people.
One area in which he is vulnerable to politicians’ opposition is his perceived reliance on goodwill from Chinese President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party.
This uncertain situation has only helped the uneasy truce between POGOs and the government. However, with China now stepping up its measures against illegal operators within its own borders, it surely won’t be long before it turns its attention to the Philippines.
With over 11,500 people arrested in the latest Chinese crackdown, some POGOs may be already feeling the squeeze. Gaming association PACGOR was even forced to put out a statement a few months ago after local rumors from an unknown source began circulating about migrants coming from China to work for POGOs had led to an increase in prostitution and crime—and even some suggestions that they might be part of a CCP spy network.
“We are working closely with the Chinese embassy in the Philippines regarding the crackdown of Chinese nationals with criminal records,” said the regulator in a statement.
Duterte may support POGOs for now. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t regularly criticized them or asked officials to increase the number of local Philippine workers over Chinese migrants.
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