Pros, cons of POGO growth in the eyes of Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 17 2019 10:43 PM

MANILA—Members of the Filipino-Chinese business community have different views on the expanding offshore gaming operations in the country, which boost the economy but does so at the expense of skirting laws in mainland China, an official of a business chamber said Saturday.

Any form of gambling business has always been "controversial" for Chinese investors, Wilson Lee Flores, the media committee chair of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, told ABS-CBN News.

"On one hand, we want our economy to be competitive. We want the money coming in pero on one hand din, nalulungkot ’yung ibang businessmen kasi it's a gambling business. It is a very negative business," Lee Flores said.

The Philippines has earned P11.9 billion in offshore gaming revenues since 2016, when several online gaming companies opened shop in the country after China banned all electronic casinos from operating in the mainland.

The influx of Mandarin-speaking offshore gaming workers in the country drove rental rates in the Manila Bay area by 80 percent, according to data from real estate consultancy firm Leechiu Property Consultants.

Office and accommodation space is expected to remain strong as long as POGO (or Philippine offshore gaming operations) firms are allowed to operate in the country, said JLL Philippines country head Christophe Vicic.

"The demand is still strong, today there is no reduction in POGO demand, the issue is to find them space," Vicic said in an earlier interview on ANC.

Lee Flores, who is also a real-estate entrepreneur, agreed that the POGO boom has benefited the property sector, but maintained that not all Filipino-Chinese businessmen are "comfortable" with the rise of online gambling in the country.

"Maraming biktima sa China. Nagkakaron ng broken families sa China, may mga anak na inuubos pera ng tatay. It's parang bad karma," he said.

"Some Filipino-Chinese businessmen are not comfortable with this because it's like condoning all these illegalities.

"Half of me is happy that the Philippines is gaining all this money, it's a pump to the economy, big inflow of money [but] I am worried because I don't want the Philippines to have this international reputation na kapag illegal, sa Pilipinas ka pumunta."

Several government officials said the POGO industry must be investigated, as the country loses about P22 billion annually due to the unpaid income taxes of some 12,000 illegal POGO workers.