Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has been cited by local media outlets – following a Thursday meeting in Beijing between President Rodrigo Duterte and China’s President Xi Jinping – as saying China respects Philippine “sovereignty” over licensing of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).
China is concerned that some Philippine-licensed POGOs are targeting Chinese customers, and enticing them to engage in what China regards domestically as “criminal” activity. Macau is the only place in China where casino gambling is legal, a point reportedly made by President Xi during the Sino-Philippine summit in Beijing.
Mr Dominguez, who reportedly attended the bilateral meeting of the leaders, said Mr Xi welcomed a recently-announced pause by the Philippines in issuing new POGO licences, but would prefer that China’s neighbour ban such business.
It was reported last month that there were 58 licensed POGO operators in the country, with three others awaiting licences.
Salvador Panelo, a spokesperson for Mr Duterte, was cited by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as saying he made no specific response during the bilateral meeting to Mr Xi’s stance on POGOs. But he said the Philippine leader would probably want to study the subject further.
“We have to look into what we will lose if we stop online gaming. Will it affect the [national] budget?” Mr Panelo said, noting that the country’s public finance authorities would have to be consulted about the potential impact on national revenue should POGO practice is stopped.
The gross income from regulatory fees from offshore gaming operations realised by the country’s casino regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation – known as Pagcor – was just under PHP2.7 billion (US$51.5 million) in the first half of this year. That was about 7 percent of Pagcor’s total first-half gross income of just under PHP36.6 billion, according to data released last month by the gaming regulator.
Prior to Thursday’s bilateral meeting, Jose Santa Romana, Philippine ambassador to China, had said whether or not his country would continue to allow POGOs was its sovereign decision, and not one for China.
Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, has reportedly ordered authorities there to end all online and arcade gambling by the end of this year in a bid to safeguard what he termed security and public order.
Cambodia had said last month that it was to stop issuing new online gaming licences and let the current ones lapse when they expired. Chinese state news agency Xinhua had reported around that time that “foreign criminals” had been running what it termed “underground online gambling businesses” via Cambodia, targeting people outside that country.
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Spending on purchase of goods, commissions paid and customer rebates in Macau's gaming industry in 2018