PAGCOR Donates $220,000 To Fight Illegal Online Gambling
The gambling regulator in the Philippines – the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) has announced that they will be allocating PHP 11.1 million (roughly $220,000) to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Cybercrime.
The funds are set to be spent on additional resources for local authorities to quell illegal online gambling. PAGCOR has already released PHP 5 million to the DOJ’s Office of Cybercrime after the two agencies signed a memorandum of agreement.
The Office of Cybercrime has stated that the funds will be directed to its Cyber Fusion Operations Center which launched in 2019 to bolster its information technology equipment.
The Center serves as the monitoring hub of a multi-agency council tasked to stamp out illegal online gambling. Its mission is to gather intelligence, conduct investigations, and prepare cases against perpetrators of illegal online gambling activities. Members of the council include PAGCOR, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Immigration and the DOJ’s Office of Cybercrime.
Andrea Domingo, chair of PAGCOR, emphasized that the PHP 5 million allocation is just the beginning. The initial amount must be depleted before the rest of the amount is to be released.
Officer-in-charge of the Office of Cybercrime Charito Zamora praised PAGCOR’s donation, noting that the extra funds will surely assist the council in their fight against illegal online gambling.
POGO Controversy Rages On
PAGCOR’s donation comes on the heels of a number of substantive reports that blame the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) sector for having different foreign operators who have ties to criminal activities. In fact, a number of serious crimes have already been credibly linked to POGOs—tax evasion, prostitution, kidnapping, sex slavery and even murder.
POGOs rely heavily on the Chinese market, which necessitates the importation of Chinese workers to accommodate their needs. Reports have emerged stating that vast numbers of these workers do not have proper work permits.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has so far refused to levy any consequential sanctions against the POGO industry. A spokesperson for Duterte admitted that local authorities could suspend all POGO operations, a position that was reiterated by PAGCOR assistant vice-president Jose Tria.
According to Tria, PAGCOR has no issues shutting down all POGOs if the infractions allegedly widespread in the industry are not resolved. The Philippines suspended applications for online gambling licenses in August 2019, amidst concerns among locals that online gambling operators produced no value for the country and its workers.