Philippine Envoy Hits Back At China Amidst Calls To Ban Online Casinos
Following the Chinese government’s prodding to ban all forms of online gambling in the Philippines and effectively ban Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO), the Philippine ambassador to China has lashed out at Beijing and said that the decision to ban POGO’s will be the sovereign prerogative of the government of the Philippines and not China.
Ambassador Jose Santa Romana said that China has no right to dictate to the Philippines any directives to benefit its own agenda.
The envoy offered the strongly-worded statement during a televised interview before Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and China’s President Xi Jinping met in Beijing last week.
Santa Romana also underscored the economic blow a total ban on POGOs would bring about in the Philippines.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) stated that the country raked in around PHP2.7 billion (US$51.5 million) in regulatory fees from POGOs in only the first six months of 2019, making up around 7 percent of the body’s first-half gross income of PHP36.6 billion.
China Alludes To ‘Criminal’ Activity In POGOs
The Chinese government recently flagged POGOs as a criminal activity under their own laws and urged the Philippine government to shutter these operations.
In the People’s Republic of China, casino gambling has been legalized only in autonomous Macau. Online gambling is banned throughout the Mainland but there are still a large number of online casinos catering to Chinese gamblers. In recent years, it has become increasingly common for operators to establish offshore online platforms that cater to exclusively to Chinese nationals.
Santa Romana has rebutted China’s claim that POGOs are illegal and said that online gambling operators catering to offshore clientele are legal in the Philippines, with a licensing framework already in place. There are currently 58 licensed POGOs in the country, with three more awaiting the approval of their licenses. However, PAGCOR recently ceased accepting online gaming license applications as the body seeks to address concerns that hound existing online casinos.
Duterte and Xi were expected to discuss matters of offshore gaming and cross-border gambling during their summit last week, but both camps have yet to release statements on the issue.
PAGOR Focusing On Clean Up
Philippine law enforcement recently linked the rise in casino-related kidnapping cases in the country to the prevalence of POGOs, which has lured more foreign gamblers, particularly Chinese nationals to the nation.
PAGCOR has vowed to beef up its security and surveillance in Philippine casinos to clamp down on these kidnappings, which are being perpetrated by opportunistic loan sharks. The watchdog is looking into employing facial recognition cameras to bolster its security personnel on the gaming floor.