Casino regulator-cum-operator the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) is donating PHP11.1 million (about US$220,000) to the Office of Cybercrime under the country’s Department of Justice. The money is to acquire equipment to support the local authorities in curbing illegal online gaming, Pagcor said in a Wednesday press release.
Following a memorandum of agreement signed by Pagcor and the Department of Justice on Tuesday, an initial PHP5 million were released to the Office of Cybercrime, said Pagcor.
“The initial amount must be liquidated before the next tranche may be released,” it added.
The money is to be used to support the Office of Cybercrime’s Cyber Fusion Operations Center, namely via the acquisition of information technology equipment.
The centre is to serve as the complaint and monitoring unit of an inter-agency council against illegal online gaming launched in March 2019. The council includes Pagcor, the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Justice’s Office of Cybercrime.
The council aims “to handle intelligence gathering, investigations and prosecutions of illegal online gaming activities,” according to Pagcor’s Wednesday press release.
Pagcor chairman Andrea Domingo (pictured in a file photo) was quoted by the release as saying: “We really want to help especially if it’s related to cybercrime. The PHP5 million funding is just an initial grant.”
The release also quoted Charito Zamora, officer-in-charge of the Department of Justice’s Office of Cybercrime, saying that the Cyber Fusion Operations Center would have “multilevel functions serving as communications facility and hands-on ready training facility”. The official added: “It will definitely help the council in reinforcing its fight against the rampant proliferation of illegal online gambling.”
Pagcor’s donation comes as the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator – or POGO – sector has faced criticism in the Philippines, due to allegations some operators have links to criminal activities, including cases of abduction.
The POGO industry engages a sizeable number of Chinese nationals, with some of them reportedly working illegally in the country. Chinese workers are needed to support POGO operations in the Philippines because the sector reportedly deals mainly with Chinese gamblers and so requires proficiency in Mandarin.
A spokesperson for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted – according to media reports on Thursday – that the local authorities could order all POGOs to halt temporarily their operations. That followed remarks by Pagcor assistant vice president Jose Tria saying the regulator was willing to shut down all offshore gaming businesses in the country if issues related with unpaid taxes, labour and an alleged spike in crimes related with Chinese nationals in the Philippines, were not resolved.
The Philippines stopped accepting applications for online gaming licences August last year. The suspension came amid growing concerns in the country about lost employment opportunities for locals, unpaid taxes by some online operators, and an increase in criminality.
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