A majority of members from the Committee on Ways and Means in the Philippine Senate has signed a report recommending the shutdown of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) within three months. Ten of the 18 members of the committee put their name to the document that calls for a permanent ban on POGOs, according to local media reports.
Philippine senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the committee involved, said the recommendation was contained in a report filed with the Senate on Tuesday, reported the Philippine Inquirer newspaper.
“This is an important step to prevent the rampant crimes coming from several POGO companies,” Mr Gatchalian was cited as saying. “We are hoping that we reach our goal of maintaining peace in the country, which will lead to the growth of our economy,” he noted in a statement.
Mr Gatchalian said the Senate committee report would be sent to a plenary session for deliberation. He added that senators would discuss the phasing-out period, namely whether either to implement an immediate ban or give POGOs a three-month period to close operations.
The sector has recently been under scrutiny amid allegations that some licensees had been associated with criminal activity.
Mr Gatchalian had released a report in March, based on an inquiry – led by his panel and the Senate’s Committee on Economic Affairs – about the effects of POGOs on the nation’s economy.
The document asserted that POGOs were not making “any significant economic contributions” to the country, but were instead exerting what could be perceived as “growing criminal influence” on some law enforcement agencies.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), the nation’s gaming regulator, had given a September 17 deadline for all licensees and service providers linked to POGOs to reapply for licences.
Pagcor also introduced a new regulatory framework for offshore gaming licensees with effect from July.
According to the new framework, offshore operators are required to have an authorised capital stock of at least PHP100 million (US$1.8 million), of which PHP25 million should be paid up. Previously, the minimum capital was PHP15 million, of which PHP3 million had to be paid up.
Licences shall be valid for two years. There is also a PHP100,000 licence application fee, compared to varying fees previously.
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