‘Game over’: Gatchalian urges Marcos gov't to immediately ban the POGO industry   

“It’s game over for the POGO industry.”
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian stressed this on Wednesday, March 22 as he reported the findings of his Senate Committee on Ways and Means in its investigation into the socio-economic impact of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the country.
Gatchalian, chairman of the committee, said that based on their findings, “the Filipino people stand to lose more than they will gain from allowing POGOs to continue operating in the Philippines.”
“In light of this, we recommend the permanent banning of offshore gaming operations in the Philippines,” Gatchalian said in his chairman’s report.
The recommendation to ban POGOs, he said, is premised squarely on the detailed findings of the legislative inquiry, one of which finds the POGO business model as inherently unstable due to the outsized foreign regulatory and political risks involved. 
“By triangulating POGO spending figures by currency and foreign national employment figures, the Committee found substantial basis to conclude that a sizable majority of customers placing bets through POGO operators are Chinese nationals,” he said. 
In essence, Gatchalian said Chinese nationals are using offshore gaming operations based in the Philippines as a loophole to circumvent Chinese criminal law.
Thus, he said, “it is no surprise that the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Philippines has released several public statements in relation to its citizens involved in gambling in the Philippines, on September 27, 2021, September 22, 2022, and October 11, 2022.
“The strongest statement was the most recent, when the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy said: ‘Crimes induced by and associated with POGO not only harm China’s interests and China-Philippines relations, but also hurt the interests of the Philippines. It is therefore widely believed that social costs of POGO far outweigh its economic benefits to the Philippines in the long runandPOGOshouldbetackledfromtherootso as to address the social ills in a sweeping manner’,” he said. 
“I can imagine the Philippine government would react in a similar way if a foreing ally were allowing Filipinos to bet on prohibited games like jueteng or e-sabong through online casinos housed in another country,” he pointed out. 
Gatchalian also said the POGO industry poses troubling social risks in the Philippines, noting that the Philippine National Police (PNP), during its investigation, has said there were at least 102 POGO-related crimes reported between the period of Jan. 1, 2017 and Jan. 23, 2023; 316 people were victimized by these crimes, the vast majority of the victims—214—were Chinese, while 28 were Filipinos. 
“The most common crime reported in connection to the POGO industry was the heinous crime of kidnap-for-ransom, with 30 cases recorded during the five-year period. 14 cases of trafficking of persons were also recorded, along with 13 violations of the Access Devices Regulation Act and 10 cases of kidnapping and serious illegal detention,” he said. 
Gatchalian also said that based on the panel’s inquiry and findings, the POGO industry also appears to be a potent source of financial crime, citing a report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council that POGOs and their service providers are highly vulnerable to money laundering.
While it was originally promoted as a robust source of tax and licensing revenues for the government, the senator said the panel found out that the direct and indirect economic benefits derived from POGOs—including tax revenue, real estate activities, consumer activities, and others amounted to only P134.9-billion in 2021 or only 0.7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 
Furthermore, he said POGOs contributed only 0.09% in 2018, 0.23% in 2019, 0.29% in 2020, 0.14% in 2021, and 0.21% for the months of January to September 2022.
“Sa madaling salita, katiting lamang ang kitang naiaambag ng POGO sa ating ekonomiya. Kaya naman hindi sapat na dahilan para sabihing malaki ang mawawala sa ating ekonomiya kapag binuwag ang mga POGO (In other words, POGO contributes little to our economy. That is why it is not enough reason to say that our economy will lose a lot if POGOs are abolished),” he said. 
“In summary, our conclusion is that the POGO industry has been proven to be more of a liability than an asset to the Philippine economic and social order,” he stressed.
“In line with this conclusion, this representation formally recommends that the Executive Department and its concerned agencies immediately ban POGO operations in the Philippines,” 
“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I hope we can all join hands to do what needs to be done. It’s game over for the POGO industry,” Gatchalian emphasized.