Philippine Congress Ponders USD 244 million online bets suspicious transaction reports

Posted by DG, Date posted at November 28, 2022

The Philippine Congress is now very interested to look into the recent Anti-Money Laundering Council report that reveals how online betting has become part of a USD244 million scheme. The long span of time that the report covered showed how the trend remarkably coincided with the illegal POGOs coming into the scene.

Philippine one thousand and five hundred peso bills and calculator

The Anti-Money Laundering Council revealed in a bulletin in October, “At the core of the country’s legislative body’s public hearings in recent weeks… is the consequential impact, both social and economic, of the Internet-based casino sector in the country.”

Their report was taken to refer to the recent spate of concerns and crimes that are brought about allegedly by illegal online gambling corporations in the Philippines. The crimes reported span from money laundering, rigged results, kidnapping, human trafficking, forced labor, and various human rights violations. This recent trend in criminal activity brought about by illegal POGOs was also tantamount to swift actions to boot them out of the country permanently.

Anti-Money Laundering Council 2020 Findings

The 31-page document created by the Anti-Money Laundering Council contains a very detailed account of their 2020 findings: “Of particular interest to the legislators is the AMLC’s Internet-Based Casino Sector Risk Assessment released in 2020 that highlighted money laundering typologies and suspicious (red flag) indicators derived primarily from suspicious transaction report (STRs) involving the sector.”

The significant numbers that they included in the report was an upward trend that was seen between 2013 and 2016 wherein the peak was in the latter year showing 332 STRs involving transactions that total a whopping PHP8.8 billion. This trend fell down abruptly at the start of 2017 and up to 2019.

AMLC also highlighted in said 2020 report that a “majority of the STRs filed in terms of volume are based on the suspicious circumstance of ‘no underlying legal or trade obligation, purpose, or economic justification,’ accounting for 565, or 55%, of the total STR data set”.

You might want to read: POGO Shutdown backed by Former Finance Chief

Cagayan included in the AMLC report

AMLC’s report was keen on making sure that they were able to define which entities were part of the scheme. The report declared the “Internet-based casino sector” as a corporation that covers the activities of “gaming laboratories”; “interactive gaming licensees” wherein there were foreign companies registered and/or licensed by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority. 

AMLC further reached into the details saying that “interactive gaming support service providers”; Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs); and “service providers” that “provide components of offshore gaming operations to offshore gaming operators” were also part of the illegal activities they have tagged and monitored for their report.

Land-based casinos: Casino games streaming or gambling via live tables

Do note that the document did not specifically mention whether land-based casinos offering live-streamed casino games or proxy gambling via live tables were covered under the suspicious transaction report analysis. 

There was a 2018 report by the United States Department of State’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report citing how the Philippines’ casino market leniency to allow casino proxy gambling — this involving bets placed on behalf of someone not physically present at a gaming venue — has further strengthened “ongoing deficiencies” of the anti-money laundering system in the Philippines.

There are also legal entities that are allowed to operate online games for the domestic market. This is via the Philippine Inshore Gaming Operator (PIGO) licenses which PAGCOR approved as a way to support the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The news on how illegal POGOs have encroached and have taken advantage of not being on the radar during the early online gaming years vividly show their intent. Hopefully, I’d like to see that the legal POGOs will be able to take this report in their favor since it remarkably shows the contrast in how they conduct business. Any feedback on this folks? Comment below and let us know how you see this report, too. Hope to hear from you!

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