Chinese authorities are urging the Philippines to ban “all online gambling” generated via the Southeast Asian country. Beijing in addition has praised Cambodia for announcing over the weekend such a ban.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said during a regular press conference on Tuesday the Chinese authorities were aware of the Philippines’ decision to stop accepting applications for new online gaming licences providing services aimed at offshore customers, known in the country as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGOs.
“We… note the Philippine government’s announcement and appreciate it,” Mr Geng said.
He added: “We hope the Philippines will go further and ban all online gambling. We hope it will further strengthen law enforcement with China and jointly tackle criminal activities including online gambling and cyber fraud. This will help create an enabling environment for our bilateral relations and peace and stability in the region.”
Mr Geng did not clarify in his comments whether the suggested ban against “online gambling” in the Philippines should only include POGOs or also affect so-called “proxy” or telebetting”. In some scenarios such gambling can be offered at a live gaming table in a licensed bricks and mortar casino – either via the Internet or voice phone service – to players not physically present in the casino.
Proxy betting was de facto banned by the Macau government in 2016, and has since become popular in the Philippine casino market, namely serving players in mainland China, according to investment analysts covering the gaming sector.
In his comments, Mg Geng labelled online gambling as the “most dangerous tumour in modern society”, saying it was an activity “detested by people all across the world”.
The head of the casino regulator in the Philippines said in a press conference on Monday the body would “no longer, at this time, accept any more [POGO] applications until we have reviewed and comfortably addressed all of the concerns of everybody.”
In a statement issued earlier this month, the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines had said that “the fact that the Philippine casinos and POGOs and other forms of gambling entities are targeting Chinese customers has severely affected” China’s interests.
POGOs are said to have been expanding aggressively in the Philippines, with currently 58 licensed such operators in the country, and three others awaiting licences. Many of these operations specifically target Chinese customers.
The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, and Chinese President Xi Jinping are poised to discuss matters related to cross-border gambling during a meeting between the two heads of state to take place later this month.
In his Tuesday comments, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mr Geng praised Cambodia for its decision to stop issuing new online gaming licences, and not renewing such existing licences once they expire.
“China highly appreciates Cambodia’s decision to ban online gambling,” Mr Geng said.
He added: “We believe it will help protect both Cambodian and Chinese people’s interests. It will also strengthen our law enforcement cooperation and friendly relations.”
The Chinese spokesperson stated that Chinese authorities stood “ready to work with Cambodia to take effective measures to deepen law enforcement and security cooperation to the benefit of our peoples.”
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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