About 35 percent of the PHP2.33 billion (US$43.6 million) amount in revenue said to be owed to the Philippines’ gaming regulator by online operators serving foreign customers, has been “resolved with finality”.
That is according to a Monday press release from the regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), responding to a statement published last week on the website of the Philippine public spending watchdog, the Commission on Audit.
This does not mean that the PHP815.9 million described by Pagcor as “resolved” had actually found its way to the public purse.
Pagcor explained that the sum represented in aggregate amounts that had been “under protest” by certain Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) after Pagcor billed them.
The billed amount had resulted from Pagcor’s “intensive fight against illegal online gambling and its overzealousness to maximise collections which led it to impose assumed or estimated billings for suspected undeclared websites,” said the regulator in its Monday statement.
Pagcor added: “After thorough revalidation, no link between the suspected undeclared websites and concerned POGOs were established. In fact, the undeclared sites were actually websites of illegal operators stealing the live stream of our licensees.”
The regulator added that, of the just over PHP1.51 billion which remained uncollected, the “majority” was “attributable to the recent effects of the Covid-19 pandemic”, mentioning business disruption to POGOs due to lockdowns.
The release recalled that on March 21, 2020, all POGO gaming operations in the country had been ordered to shut down by the government as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the Philippines. “Most POGOs were no longer able to reopen… which consequently resulted in the accrual of uncollected bills,” Pagcor stated.
The regulator explained that under legislation passed in the Philippines to ease burdens on business during the pandemic, Pagcor would have had the option of “not imposing the monthly minimum guaranteed fee” on those POGO licensees that failed to resume their operations.
Monday’s statement said that because of Pagcor’s desire to raise public revenue for pandemic-related relief, the monthly minimum guaranteed fee had still been imposed on all POGOs in April and May 2020, “notwithstanding the closure mandated” by the country’s government. The regulator continued to impose the monthly minimum guaranteed fee “on the succeeding months” to all POGOS, regardless of whether they had been able to resume operations or not.
The Commisson on Audit’s report covered accounts – including receivables – up to the end of calendar-year 2021.
According to the annual audit on Pagcor, the gaming regulator had uncollected receivables from POGOs amounting to just over PHP2.97 billion as of the end of 2021. Of that aggregate, PHP2.33 billion had been classified as uncollected for more than a year since becoming due, an increase of 57 percent from 2020.
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