PAGCOR bats for level playing field in POGO

Published July 28, 2021, 2:34 PM

by Chino S. Leyco

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) is against proposals to provide certain advantages to special economic zones involved in Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO).

Andrea D. Domingo, PAGCOR chairman and chief executive officer said Wednesday, July 28 that the government’s casino regulator and operator is batting for a level playing field in the online gaming industry.

Domingo’s statement comes at the heels of reports that the bill seeking to properly regulate POGOs got stalled in Congress due to groups lobbying to “insert” provisions that would allegedly restore or confer certain tax advantages to special economic zones.

“Special means special,” Domingo said. “In government there shall be no such thing, all policies, regulations, laws should be uniformly applied.”

The POGO bills, aimed at settling long-standing debates on online gaming taxation, have already winded up in the House of Representatives in February and the Senate last June.

The House leadership has agreed to adopt the Senate’s version to skip the reconciliation process through the bicameral conference committee.

House Ways and Means Chairman Joey Salceda said he recommended the adoption of the Senate version due to government’s urgent need to raise P13.4 billion from POGOs to further boost state coffers.

As of press time, however, the POGO bill has yet to be ratified by Congress despite commitments by House leaders and President Duterte’s certification that the proposed tax on POGO is an urgent measure.

In April, the PAGCOR chief threw her support behind the POGO tax bill, saying the gaming regulator “has gone through it and I think it’s right that they are taxed that way.”

Domingo also favored the Senate version “because it is meant for healthcare,” which is “fair and good for both sides, government and POGOs.”

The Senate version, Salceda said “contains only minor reworkings of the House version, and there is no difference between their tax rates and tax bases, and those of the House version”

“We were the first draft, and they made very few modifications. So, recognizing the respect that the Senate extended to the House version, we will adopt their changes, which in my view are acceptable,” the House lawmaker said.

Once passed into law, the Bureau of Internal Revenue will start imposing a 5 percent tax on gross gaming receipts for offshore gaming licensees and a 25 percent tax on gross income for nonresident aliens working for POGO service providers.

The government will also impose a 25-percent withholding tax on foreigners employed by offshore gambling licensees and service providers. Moreover, a minimum final withholding tax of P12,500 for any taxable month is also mandated.

The POGO bill also requires every non-Filipino employee to have a Tax Identification Number (TIN).