Pinoys set to access online casinos; BIR on lookout

Published November 4, 2020, 5:00 AM

by Chino S. Leyco

As government sets to allow Filipino citizens to access online casino websites, the Department of Finance (DOF) is quick to remind operators that there is no tax distinction between onshore and offshore gaming operations.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will treat local casinos like regular Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) once they began accepting bets from Filipinos through the internet.

Dominguez explained that all online casino companies licensed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to operate local and overseas gaming platforms are governed by the same tax laws.

“The tax treatment is the same for online gambling whether onshore or offshore, for as long as the operator is a licensee of Pagcor,” Dominguez told reporters.

Bloomberg first reported that Solaire Resort and Casino, City of Dreams Manila, and Okada Manila received a green-light from Pagcor to operate online games catering to Filipinos, a move to help the gaming sector weather the ongoing pandemic that restricted its operations.

Despite Pagcor’s efforts to gradually reopening gambling venues in the country, gaming revenues plummeted by more than 90 percent after casinos were only allowed to reopen to a maximum of 30 percent capacity.

POGOs, on the other hand, are closing shop amid the pandemic as issues, including the imposition of the BIR franchise tax, continue to hound the industry. The exodus has also leave behind sizable office and condominium spaces empty.

The COVID-19 restrictions on operational capacities, inability of foreign workers to return to the Philippines, and new tax policies were among the reasons for the spate of POGO closures.

While POGOs have been in the country since 2016, their gaming websites were intensionally blocked within the Philippines, a rule mandated by the government to prohibit Filipino citizens play online gambling.