By Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan
THE PHILIPPINE Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has intensified the crackdown against illegal online gaming operators, saying it has raided some 170 establishments operating without licenses as of the first semester.
In a statement over the weekend, PAGCOR warned illegal offshore gaming operators to shape up or face charges.
“Word of advice, therefore, legalize your operations or face dire consequences,” said PAGCOR Chairperson Andrea D. Domingo.
“The campaign was stepped up in June 2018, after…(a) coordination meeting (between) PAGCOR, NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), PNP (Philippine National Police), BI (Bureau of Immigration), and the Office of the President,” said PAGCOR Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) Vice-President Jose S. Tria, Jr. in a mobile phone message yesterday.
PAGCOR said the agencies signed a mutual cooperation agreement “exchange intelligence information to ultimately 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.”
“Personalities apprehended for operating without a gaming license will either face charges in court or deported,” it added.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued Executive Order No. 13 in 2017 to “intensify the fight against illegal gambling,” both online and land-based.
Through its Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Department, PAGCOR ensures that POGO licensees operate within the bounds and limits of their offshore gaming licenses, comply with labor and immigration laws, and remit to government the proper taxes.
“The current regulatory framework provides administrative penalties and sanctions against POGO licensees found to be performing prohibited acts, including violations of any conditions attached to the grant of said license,” the gaming operator-regulator said.
Philippine offshore gaming firms are based here and cater primarily to non-Filipino foreigners based abroad, largely Chinese, through the internet.
POGOs accounted for about P4 billion, or 7%, of PAGCOR’s P57.34-billion 2017 gross gaming revenue.
Ms. Domingo said PAGCOR’s third-party audit platform will soon be fully functional and will “strengthen revenue collection and ensure fairness in the operations of its POGO licensees.”
“Furthermore, regulation includes protection of the bets of the player, and we do this as a matter of course,” she said.
In another development, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has arrested 46 Chinese nationals involved in cyber fraud operations in call centers and who are wanted in Beijing for economic crimes.
BI Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said the fugitives WERE arrested in two separate operations conducted by THE BI Fugitive Search Unit in Makati City and Muntinlupa City, following a request from the Chinese Embassy.
“We received information from the Chinese authorities that these fugitives are hiding in the Philippines,” Mr. Morente said. “We immediately conducted our investigation upon receipt of information, and discovered that there were more fugitives involved conducting their illegal activities.”
BI intelligence officer and FSU Chief Bobby R. Raquepo said many of the arrested Chinese were undocumented as their passports were already cancelled by the Chinese government.
Thirty (30) Chinese fugitives were arrested on Sept. 14 in three different condominium buildings in Makati, and 16 others were nabbed in a follow-up operation in Muntinlupa City.
Mr. Raquepo said they were in their computer workstations when the BI arrested them.
“Further coordination with the Chinese embassy in Manila later revealed that the arrested nationals are all wanted fugitives in China for involvement in economic crimes. It seems like they attempted to transfer their operations in the country,” Mr. Raquepo said.
Mr. Morente said the arrested fugitives will undergo deportation proceedings. They will also be blacklisted and banned from re-entering the country. — with a report by V. Marlo M. Villegas