July 5, 2023
MANILA, Philippines — Valenzuela City is the latest local government shutting its doors on Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos), whose contributions to the economy tend to be overshadowed by their increasing association with crime, particularly human trafficking involving Chinese nationals.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mayor Wes Gatchalian said the city council had passed three ordinances prohibiting all forms of gambling in the city, including Pogos.
He thus ordered the suspension of new applications also for the operation of Small Town Lottery (STL), online cockfighting, online bingo, and online poker, among others.
Valenzuela City remains without any Pogo establishment but currently has nine STL operators, he noted.
‘Moral, social impacts’
The mayor said he signed the ordinances to preempt any of the “social impacts’’ arising from the proliferation of illegal gambling, such as human trafficking, money laundering, prostitution, and kidnapping.
He recalled that during a raid on an unauthorized cockfight or “tupada” in Barangay Lingunan in May 2021, a teenager was shot dead by the police during the commotion.
“In my view, Philippine resources end up being used to deal with complaints arising from Pogos,” the mayor said.
While there may be “economic benefits” from hosting such companies, he said, they have also proven to have “moral and social impacts” that the city government now wants to prevent.
“That’s why I’m making this preemptive move before they reach Valenzuela,’’ Gatchalian added.
The recently passed ordinances penalize violators with fines ranging from P100,000 up to P500,000, according to Councilor Ricar Enriquez, the majority floor leader.
A ban on Pogos and other forms of online gambling took effect also in Pasig City in December last year.
In signing Ordinance No. 55, series of 2022, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto gave companies running e-games, “e-sabong,” e-bingo, online poker and casinos, and computer gaming stations one year to wrap up their operations and leave the city.
In September 2022, following reports on a spate of serious crimes, including killings and abductions, the Senate moved to ban Pogos nationwide.
That same month, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said illegal Pogo workers would be summarily deported.
As of June 2023, there are 33 licensed Pogos listed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
From P7.18 billion in 2020 (the first year of the pandemic), the taxes collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue from Pogos and their service providers went down by 46 percent to P3.91 billion in 2021, according to the Department of Finance.