AMLC, BSP ordered to scrutinize Pogo industry
The country’s chief financial regulator wants the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to thoroughly examine the activities of online gaming firms operating in the country to allow policymakers to decide on a future course of action in response to criticism against the booming industry.
Speaking in a media forum on Tuesday, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno said he had asked the AMLC—which he also chairs in an ex-official capacity—to come up with a report on Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos) in light of the Chinese government’s request for local authorities to clamp down on illegal online games of chance.
Diokno said he was particularly interested to get a fuller picture of the impact that Pogos were having on the local economy especially on the real estate sector since a substantial amount of new high-rise office and residential spaces was being taken up by the gaming industry.
The BSP chief did not flag money laundering as a specific concern for his order on a study of the Pogo industry, saying instead that his primary concern was the stability of the local financial system.
“This study will be for the guidance of the Monetary Board,” he said, adding that of particular interest to policymakers was the vacuum that the industry would create if its activities were suddenly stopped, according to the Chinese government’s wishes.
There are an estimated 138,000 Chinese nationals working in the 58 local online gaming service providers licensed by the state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. An additional 40,000 workers from China are believed to be working in unlicensed operations, which are the subject of an ongoing crackdown by authorities.
The Pogo industry recently came to an agreement with tax authorities for its employees to pay incomes taxes to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, estimated by the Department of Finance to reach P2 billion a month.
For his part, Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said he wanted to see Pogo firms locate outside Metro Manila to lessen congestion in the country’s capital.
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