The Philippines is putting an end to 174 offshore gambling operators (POGOS) amid growing concerns over the crimes they generate.
As Reuters reports, justice ministry spokesperson Jose Dominic Clavano said, “The crackdown was triggered by reports of murder, kidnapping, and other crimes committed by Chinese nationals against fellow Chinese nationals.”
According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese women in the Philippines have been a new target of abduction in the POGOS industry, with reportedly 40 to 48 cases taking place from January to August this year.
The Philippines will shut down POGOS that have licenses revoked or expired after failing to pay government fees. Following that, the 40,000 stranded Chinese workers will be deported in October.
There have been worries about sending the workers back to China, considering its rules. Besides COVID protocols, Beijing also makes it an unwelcoming sentence for citizens engaging in such operations to return. Either they pay hefty fines or not be admitted at all. And even if they manage to go back, their passports will be immediately destroyed or cut.
The Chinese embassy in Manila said Beijing supported expulsing those involved in POGO crimes. It further promises to step up its efforts to prevent gambling.
The online gambling sector blossomed in the Philippines in 2016. As a result, the country embraced the tax income from the POGOS until it began to feel the social costs.
SCMP reports that the country expected over $544 million (32.1 billion pesos) of tax money to be collected from the POGOS this year. But Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said in mid-September that the industry had only generated $51 million (3 billion pesos) in taxes so far this year, which is even less than the $66 million in 2021 or the pinnacle of $122 million in 2020.
Diokno supported stopping POGOS, noting that “China has discontinued. Even Cambodia. It also has (a) reputational risk.”