Offshore gaming 'here to stay' as gov't eyes P20-B haul: regulator

Bruce Rodriguez and Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 12 2019 12:07 PM | Updated as of Jul 12 2019 04:34 PM

MANILA -- Offshore gaming operations or POGOs are "here to stay," and poised to deliver up to P20 billion in revenues as they submit to Philippine laws, the country's gaming regulator said Friday.

The Philippines' "very good model" encouraged up to 59 POGOs to set up shop. Recent rules that were finalized cover personal and corporate income taxes, the establishment of POGO hubs and setting 3-year and 5-year licenses to operate, said Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp Chairman Andrea Domingo.

The offshore gaming operations delivered P11.9 billion in revenues from 2016 to 2018 with P8 billion more expected in 2019, Domingo told the Phil-Asian Gaming Expo, a 3-day event, billed as Asia's largest gaming expo.

Addressing POGO operators in the crowd, Domingo said: "We are offshore gaming operators in the Philippines. We are legal. We ensure fair play. We do not run away from losing bets and we are here to stay."

Offshore gaming or POGOs refer to those who play from outside the Philippines, Domingo said, compared to online gaming that can be played from inside the Philippines or from a device that uses a Philippine IP address.

The influx of Chinese workers in POGOs was seen in recent years because they can speak in Chinese, has sparked concern among lawmakers who fear they were competing with Filipinos for local jobs.

The expatriates also help drive demand for commercial and residential space.

Domingo, who joked to the crowd that she only knew how to play mah jong when the POGO boom started 3 years ago, said "there are more things to be done" to make it more stable.

In 2016, Domingo said she started with a crackdown on illegal gaming operations.

"All in all, I think we are progressing. Here we are," she said.

"We have concentrated on making enough rules and regulations to attract those that would otherwise be declared as illegally operating to go into the fold of the law and operate legally," she said.

Domingo dismissed as "intrigues" reports that businessmen Kim Wong and Bong Cuevas were "manipulating" PAGCOR on offshore gaming.