STATE-RUN Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) said online gaming income has plunged due to reduced fees collected from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), whose operations have been restricted by the lockdown.

In a text message to reporters Thursday, PAGCOR Assistant Vice-President for Offshore Gaming and Licensing Department Jose S. Tria, Jr. said fees collected from POGOs have been slashed by nearly half because few operators have been allowed to return to business.

Mr. Tria said only 32 POGO licensees and 111 service providers have been allowed to resume operations at limited capacity. There are 55 registered POGOs and 218 accredited POGO service providers.

“Our monthly regulatory fees of around P600-million pre-COVID are now down by almost half. This should have been lower if not for the Minimum Guaranteed Fees which allows PAGCOR to impose higher regulatory fees than the 2% of POGOs’ GGR (gross gaming revenue) following the ‘whichever is higher formula’,” he said.

PAGCOR Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer Andrea D. Domingo said in a text message Wednesday that the industry’s monthly GGR dropped 83% to P50 million a year earlier. The agency collects 2% of GGR representing the cut of the national government.

PAGCOR booked a P1.596-billion net loss in the first half, against a P3.079-billion net profit a year earlier. Gaming revenue fell 49.56% due to the ban on casino gambling during the quarantine.

According to Mr. Tria, licenses of five POGOs have been canceled, five more were suspended, and 42 service providers are in the process of having their accreditation revoked.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said Wednesday the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will audit POGOs leaving the country to check on their tax compliance and collect any back taxes.

Casino and offshore gambling operations were banned when the strictest form of the lockdown was imposed in mid-March. Operations of POGOs and their service providers were allowed to resume in early May, subject to safety protocols and the submission of a tax clearance.

The BIR requires POGOs to settle their tax arrears and pay the 5% franchise tax before they can be issued a tax clearance, which the industry contests.

The BIR collected P6.42 billion in taxes from POGOs last year, up 170%.

Leechiu Property Consultants reported that demand for office space dropped 74% in the first six months of 2020 as POGOs began leaving the country due to the pandemic. — Beatrice M. Laforga