By Chino Leyco
State-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) has conducted raids in over 170 online gaming firms operating without license as it launched a crackdown against illegal operators.
In a statement, Andrea D. Domingo, Pagcor chairperson said the 170 online gaming firms have been found in violation of the Offshore Gaming Regulatory Manual (OGRM) and will face charges in court and deportation if they are foreign nationals.
Domingo said these illegal online gaming firms have caused “undue damage to society and its citizens.”
According to Domingo, personalities, whether Filipinos or foreign nationals, who were apprehended for operating without a gaming license will either face charges in court or deported.
Pagcor estimated that four out of every 10 workers in online gaming firms are Filipinos. These workers consist of high-paying IT and technical support staff, dealers, administrative staff, drivers, cooks, maintenance personnel and others.
“Word of advice, therefore, legalize your operations or face dire consequences,” Domingo said.
Pagcor conducted a series of raids in cooperation with National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Immigration.
It will be recalled that Pagcor entered into a mutual cooperation agreement with various law enforcement agencies for its campaign against illegal online gambling.
There is also an interagency council, which exchange intelligence information to carry out intelligence “operations, surveillances, raids, arrests, or any other action deemed appropriate, and thereby put a stop to the proliferation of illegal online gambling activities.”
Aside from conducting raids against erring firms, Domingo said Pagcor is also regularly monitoring and auditing the operation of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) licensees to ensure that they remit to government proper revenue share and that they adhere to all laws.
She said regular audits of POGO gaming hubs showed "substantial compliance" with Pagcor rules, as well as local government requirements on health and sanitation, fire safety, occupational permits and others.
The current regulatory framework provides administrative penalties and sanctions against POGO licensees found to be performing prohibited acts, including violations of any conditions provided under their license.
Moving forward, Domingo said its third-party audit platform will soon be fully functional which will strengthen revenue collection and ensure fairness in the operations of its POGO licensees.
Specifically, the audit platform ensures that POGO licensees conduct its operations as prescribed by the regulatory framework.
It also ensures that only licensed and approved casino based gaming platforms are offered to players, and that betting on prohibited platforms like collegiate games, illegal cockfights, prices of traded stocks are not undertaken by licensees.
Accordingly, sanctions and administrative penalties shall be imposed against erring firms.
“Furthermore, regulation includes protection of the bets of the player, and we do this as a matter of course,” Domingo emphasized.