Pagcor cracks down on illegal online gaming operators
Gaming regulators have begun a crackdown on firms engaging in the lucrative online gaming business, including ramped up raids on unlicensed operations employing improperly documented Chinese workers.
At the same time, the state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. noted that firms operating legally comply with government local government requirements on health and sanitation, fire safety, occupational permits and others for the thousands of Filipino and Chinese workers they employ.
In a statement, Pagcor Chair Andrea Domingo said her office has coordinated with various law enforcement agencies, which have raided more than 170 illegal and unregulated establishments in the first half of 2018.
Personalities apprehended for operating without a gaming license either face charges in court or be deported, she said. No figures were provided for the number of Chinese workers apprehended in these raids but an industry insider said “hundreds” have so far been detained.
“Legalize your operations or face dire consequences.” Domingo said, stressing that Pagcor is the sole agency authorized to approve licenses under the Philippine Online Gaming Operation (POGO) scheme.
Pagcor capped the number of licensees in the industry at 45 last year and these firms are expected to generate P6 billion in fees for the government this year. But the lucrative nature of the business has also attracted people who operate without Pagcor licenses, running out of makeshift offices in exclusive villages or residential condominium units.
Pagcor had earlier entered into a mutual cooperation agreement with the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Immigration for the drive against illegal online gambling. The agreement was executed with a representative of the Office of the President exercising oversight on the same.
Aside from conducting raids against erring firms, Pagcor is also regularly monitoring and auditing the operation of POGO licensees to ensure that they remit to the government its proper revenue share and that they adhere to all municipal, national and labor laws, she said.
Domingo said this was an important function since an estimated two out of every 5 workers in online gaming firms in the Philippines were Filipinos. They consist of high-paying IT and technical support staff, dealers, administrative staff, drivers, cooks, maintenance personnel and others.
There are an estimated 100,000 Chinese nationals working in the online gaming industry in the Philippines that requires proficient knowledge of the Mandarin language for marketing, customer and technological support.
Pagcor conducts periodic audits of licensees to ensure that they operate within the bounds and limits of their offshore gaming licenses and mandates the agency to monitor and report possible violations on labor, immigration and other pertinent laws, such as poor working conditions, exploitation of employees and employment of minors or undocumented foreign nationals. The current regulatory framework provides administrative penalties and sanctions against POGO licensees found to be performing prohibited acts, including violations of any conditions attached to the grant of the gaming license.
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