Philippines Senator Proposes Ban on Online Gambling (Again)

The Philippines is once again considering a ban on online gambling. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has introduced legislation to end Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) due to increasing criminal activity associated with the industry. This sentiment is not something new and considerations for a ban have been around for a long time, despite the benefits of for example providing ample jobs in the country.

Senate Bill No. 2689, introduced on May 21, aims to outlaw offshore gaming operations. Gatchalian noted that while POGOs have generated revenue and jobs, they have also led to a surge in crimes, raising concerns about their overall impact.

“The main goal is to outlaw and prohibit offshore gaming operations in the country. While the POGO industry has brought in revenue and jobs, the country has grappled with a surge in POGO-related crimes, raising concerns about the overall impact on the industry,” said Gatchalian last Friday.

The proposed bill seeks to rescind the offshore gambling taxability authorized by Republic Act 11590, enacted in 2021 by former President Rodrigo Duterte. Gatchalian highlighted several incidents of online fraud and human trafficking linked to POGO providers.

Last May, police raided Clark Freeport Zone, rescuing about 1,000 foreigners and 100 Filipinos. Another raid in Las Piñas uncovered around 2,700 suspected human trafficking victims. In Pasay City, authorities discovered a ‘torture chamber’ and illegal massage parlors used for prostitution during a raid last October.

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Additionally, a Vietnamese victim’s escape led to the “POGO Mayor” case, resulting in a police raid in Bamban, Tarlac.

“Various atrocities attributed to the industry have generated public outcry for a ban on the industry, further intensified by economic costs brought by such operations. Beyond the financial impact, the rise in human trafficking and online scams linked to POGOs is a moral failing we must address,” added Gatchalian.

Senate President Francis Escudero also proposed a wider ban on all forms of gambling, stating, “I prefer to ban everything to get rid of gambling in the Philippines.”

Last year, the Philippines Gaming Authority, PAGCOR, had already established a framework to tackle illegal gaming operations from the Philippines.

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