The Philippine gaming regulator said in a Friday statement it welcomed calls by one of the country’s lawmakers for what it termed “stronger vetting” on offshore-facing operators of online gaming.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) noted that on Tuesday local authorities had discovered an unauthorised operator in the Makati district of Manila.
On May 1 Pagcor had announced it had authorised a “partial resumption” of business at legally-licensed Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), providing they had paid all due taxes and fees and complied with measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 infection.
Since mid-March operations at land-based casinos, and soon after, those at POGOs, had faced business suspension due to the novel coronavirus pandemic affecting that country. Bricks and mortar casinos in Metro Manila remain shuttered at least until May 15, according to government guidelines.
The regulator said in its Friday statement regarding the offshore gaming suppliers: “Because of the limitations of its charter, Pagcor has no police powers. Hence, it could not arrest or prosecute illegal gambling operations.”
Though it added: “What it can do within the bounds of its charter is to regulate gaming entities, and ensure that revenues from such operations will be used for the benefit of the country.”
The call for greater vetting of online operators and control of non-registered offshore gaming operators – or “NOGOs” as they were referred to in Pagcor’s statement – had come from Representative Joseph Bernos, chairperson of the Committee on Games and Amusements in the House of Representatives, said the regulator.
Pagcor also noted that in March this year it had released PHP5 million (about US$100,000) out of a PHP11.08-million commitment, to the country’s Department of Justice and its Office of Cybercrime, toward the cost of a complaint and monitoring centre.
The centre would work on behalf of an existing inter-agency task force agreed in March last year to tackle the issue, said Pagcor. The regulator’s partners on it include the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Immigration, as well as the Office of Cybercrime.
Several local news outlets have previously cited comments by Pagcor’s head Andrea Domingo that suspension of legally-licensed operations at POGOs had deprived the regulatory agency of as much as PHP600 million in monthly revenue.
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"There’s a huge amount of possibilities out there and in the case of Macau, it seems that some of these issues should be considered or we may lose the epithet of gambling capital of the world"
Macau-based lawyer and senior partner at law firm Rato, Ling, Lei and Cortés