The spate of negative events that have hounded the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) in the country never ceased. The initial era of POGOs opened in a positive manner and provided revenue and employment for a considerable segment of the population.
But since it started operations in 2016, bad actors in the industry have become more prominent than those who are adhering to and complying with the rules and regulations set by the government. The latest of which seems to be nearly the very last straw to its back.
The latest issue reported on POGOs was revealed on the 23rd of January. Senators discovered that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) have been duped into entering a PHP 6 billion “anomalous” contract with Global ComRCI — a third-party POGO auditor — with the main task to monitor the earnings of the offshore gaming operators.
The Senate also flagged the PAGCOR officials involved in the deal given the very questionable nature and credentials of Global ComRCI.
In the said Senate hearing, it was also revealed that the private firm was tapped despite not being able to prove or provide substantial documents of a business permit and disprove findings of having connections to crime-riddled activities.
Continuous Controversy hounding POGOs
POGOs have been a hotbed for negative news for much of last year. Even within the first month of 2023, there are still new reports coming through of illegal activities connected to the industry.
The Philippine National Police disclosed that last year’s kidnapping incidents linked to POGO personnel spiked with a total of 12 out of 36 POGO-linked kidnapping cases in 2021, and 17 out of 31 POGO-linked kidnapping cases as of September last year.
This alarming rate of incidents led to crackdowns with the team of the PNP, the Bureau of Immigration and PAGCOR working to bring resolution to the POGO controversies and further establish a safe and secure business environment in the country.
Outrage on POGO-linked crimes calls for a blanket closure
The seemingly unstoppable crimes linked to POGOs have also triggered a public outcry to immediately stop and ban all POGOs from operating in the country. This included calls from lawmakers, organizations and private citizens to have offshore gaming operations in the country banned as soon as possible.
Leading the pack to remove POGOs is Senator Alan Peter Cayetano who, with his wife Mayor Lani Cayetano of Taguig. The pair have consistently turned down offers to have POGO hubs permitted to operate in Taguig as well as other gambling establishments ever since 2001.
In the POGO hearing yesterday, the 30th of January 2023, Cayetano also called on the government to be decisive in halting POGOs from operating. He expressed that they have become a breeding ground for illegal activities like money laundering, kidnapping, trafficking and even murder of industry workers.
“POGOs and other forms of online gambling have to stop. Because at the end of the day, the country only loses from them”, he digressed and pointed out that the negative effects of these businesses outweigh the economic benefits.
Cayetano has shown how he staunchly opposes gambling. He was against granting a franchise to the country’s first-ever eSabong operator back in September 2021 when he was still a member of the House of Representatives.
He is also a prime mover for then-President Duterte’s decision in May 2022 to top eSabong operations in the country. And followed through by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to formally document and issue the continued suspension of eSabong before 2022 ended.
POGO’s ill effects far outweigh the benefits cited by Cayetano
Vindicated by Marcos’s decision on eSabong, Cayetano felt that he was not alone in the plea. The Executive Order on eSabong is aligned with his own anti-eSabong campaign and referred to the EO as a necessary step to protect Filipinos from the ill effects of online cockfighting.
Cayetano also pointed out that Marcos commented that the revenue that is being received from the POGOs may not be worth the social costs and heartache that affect society. Marcos further revealed the future direction of POGOs saying that his administration will continuously examine the pros and cons of allowing POGOs in the country.
To this, Cayetano added that risking the lives of our people is now worth the revenue from such Aligned with the President’s comment on the issue the revenues made from POGOs might not be worth the social costs and that his administration is” continuously questionable and illicit activities.
Cayetano is unstoppable in his actions and drummed up his campaign to ban all forms of online gambling by filing an Anti-Online Gambling Act (Senate Bill 63) in July 2022. This was his response to the reality that the crimes involving POGOs, mental health issues and suicides connected to the accessibility of eSabong and other forms of gambling like online casinos, sports betting and bingo and the like.
He remains unmoving due to the fact he raised that these crimes, mental health issues, family disintegration and financial ruin outweigh the supposedly billions of pesos in revenue that the POGOs and other gambling operations bring into the economy. He sees that this is simply too steep of a cost to letting gambling take root in the country.
Cayetano further pushed that POGOs and other forms of online gambling have to stop. Because at the end of the day, the country only loses from them.
Again, the bad actors are definitely affecting the good players in the online gaming community. For me, it’s best to get processes in regulation and throw out the illegal POGOs right away and permanently. Putting a total ban on this will also have them go underground — an even more difficult task to solve in the long run. Keep the legal POGOs thriving but establish parameters that are rock solid for responsible gambling. Do you share the same insight? Just let us know in the comment box below. Hope to hear from you soon!