Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte says the government has no plans to ban online gambling in the country. The announcement came on Wednesday, amid growing pressure from China for the Philippines to stop such type of activities.
“We decide to benefit the interest of my country. I decide that we need [online gambling],” Mr Duterte (pictured in a file photo) said in a televised news conference on Wednesday, as quoted by several media outlets.
In his comments, Mr Duterte confirmed Chinese President Xi Jinping and he had discussed matters related to cross-border gambling during a meeting between the two heads of state which took place last week.
Mr Duterte pointed out the importance of the online gambling industry as a job provider in the Philippines and as a tax revenue generator for the government.
“If you [online gambling operators] make the mistake of not remitting [the required fees], even if you’re a gambling lord, I don’t care who you are,” he said. “To the concessionaire, if you commit a mistake, you will be shuttered.”
The head of the gaming regulator in the Philippines said on August 19 the body would 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. The regulator said the move was in order to assess concerns raised regarding the social impact in the Philippines of such operations, and to review the existing regulatory framework.
Chinese authorities have been urging the Philippines to ban “all online gambling” generated via the Southeast Asian country. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said on August 20 the Chinese authorities were aware of the Philippines’ decision to stop accepting applications for new POGO licences. He added at the time: “We hope the Philippines will go further and ban all online gambling.”
Cambodia said in mid-August it would not issue any new online licences, and would allow the current ones to expire without further renewal, citing concerns about “foreigners” using such products to cheat people inside and outside that country.
The statements from Chinese officials regarding a ban against “online gambling” in the Philippines were not clear if such ban 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.
POGOs are said to have been expanding aggressively in the Philippines, with 58 licensed such operators in the country, and three others awaiting licences, as of mid-August. Many of these operations specifically target Chinese customers.
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