The Philippines has stopped accepting applications for online gaming licences providing services aimed at offshore customers, report multiple news outlets, citing an announcement from the head of the country’s gaming regulator.
“We will no longer, at this time, accept any more applications until we have reviewed and comfortably addressed all of the concerns of everybody,” said Andrea Domingo in a press conference on Monday.
The boss of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) said the body had stopped accepting Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) applications three weeks ago.
It was further reported that currently there were 58 licensed POGO operators in the country, with three others awaiting licences.
A number of local lawmakers had expressed concerns about the accuracy of monitoring for revenue from such operations.
Pagcor’s gross income from regulatory fees from offshore gaming operations was just under PHP2.7 billion (US$51.5 million) in the first half of this year, about 7 percent of Pagcor’s total first-half gross income of just under PHP36.6 billion, according to data released on Monday by the regulator.
There has also been concern locally about the number of workers from mainland China said to be engaged in offshore-facing online gaming activities in the Philippines. One proposal has been made to house such workers in self-contained complexes, although some lawmakers have voiced disquiet it could infringe the rights of Chinese citizens.
The proposal led to a strongly-worded statement issued on August 8 by the Chinese embassy in Manila. “The Chinese embassy expresses its grave concern over such potential move by Pagcor, which may infringe on the basic legal rights of the Chinese citizens concerned, and strongly urges the Philippine government to effectively protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in the Philippines,” the document said.
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.
The online gaming sector has been experiencing other headwinds in the region.
Over the weekend in Cambodia, it was reported that the government there would stop issuing new online gaming licences, due to what the authorities said was infiltration of some operations by “foreign criminals”. That was understood to be a reference to telephone or online fraud schemes often targeting ethnic Chinese consumers.
The Philippine tightening of online gaming licensing – at the same time Cambodia was banning fresh licences for such operations – was a “missed opportunity” according to a Philippine office brokerage boss quoted by the Nikkei Asian Review news outlet. “I think legitimate operators in Cambodia would have been forced to go to the Philippines,” said David Leechiu, chief executive of POGO office broker Leechiu Property Consultants.
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