PAGCOR Vows to Get Tough on POGOs Involved in Crime as Ban Debate Continues
- POGO-linked crimes have increased four-fold since 2019
- The latest figures were presented during a Senate hearing into POGOs this week
- PAGCOR has denounced POGO-linked incidents but said it aims to nurture the industry
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR), one of the country’s top gaming regulators has denounced crimes linked to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), saying it will not hesitate to impose sanctions and penalties on any online gambling firm found guilty of engaging in criminal acts.
40 POGO-Linked Crimes Reported in 2022
PAGCOR’s statement comes after the number of POGO-related crimes rose to 40 in 2022 from 9 in 2019. The four-fold increase in POGO-linked incidents was among the subjects tackled at a Senate hearing this week during which the regulator was criticized for not enforcing regulations effectively.
POGO-linked crimes reported in the past three years involved illegal detention and kidnap for ransom. While the 2022 figure is slightly lower than the 42 recorded in 2021 (the highest tally since the POGO scheme was launched), it shows that online gambling firms continue to be involved in illegal activities, leading to growing calls for such businesses to be banned completely.
PAGCOR has hit back at criticisms directed at the agency, citing steps it has taken so far to protect the industry from crime. The regulator said it’s continuing to work with the country’s law enforcement agencies to investigate firms suspected of engaging in illegal activities.
PAGCOR highlighted that for over three months, authorities have not received any reports of criminal activities or kidnapping-related incidents linked to the sector. PAGCOR attributes that to an “inter-agency cooperation meeting” held in September 2022.
58% of Filipinos Believe POGOs Cause Harm to Society
The debate on whether POGOs should be banned has intensified, with a recent public opinion survey showing that 58% of Filipinos thought that the operation of POGOs was harmful to society. The survey was conducted by Pulse Asia, a public opinion polling body in the Philippines, from November 27 to December 1, 2022. The results of the survey were highlighted by Philippine Senator Sherwin Gatchalian who supports the ban.
Of the 1,200 respondents, 67% thought POGOs stimulate vice, while 57% raised concerns about crimes linked to the industry. A further 43% were concerned that some operators were not paying their fair share of taxes, with 33% saying the POGO industry failed to provide new economic opportunities for Filipinos.
Just 19% of those who participated in the survey thought POGOs were bringing in great benefits to the country.
While PAGCOR has vowed to penalize POGOs found to engage in criminal activities, the agency is strongly opposed to a ban, saying it wants to “nurture” the industry because of its economic contributions.