POGOs 'canceling' lease contracts in PH due to China's clampdown: Finance chief

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 23 2020 01:37 PM

Phil-Asian Gaming Expo features offshore games targetting bettors outside the Philippines. Games can be played on desktop or mobile devices. Photos taken at the SMX Convention Center. July 12, 2019. Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Several Chinese workers from the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry have "started canceling" their leased properties in the capital due to a clampdown in China, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Wednesday.

The Finance chief said he received the information from a building owner in Makati.

"POGO and service provider clients have started canceling their leasing contracts for lack of business," Dominguez said during the Department of Finance's (DOF) budget hearing in the Senate.

"The Chinese government is clamping down on money transfers... and is also canceling the passports of those people servicing the POGO industry," he said.

Dominguez did not say if the canceled lease contracts involved commercial spaces, residential units or both.

The issue was raised after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asked how much the Philippine government is expected to earn from online gambling operators this year.

Dominguez said he could not immediately give an estimate as the DOF is still conducting "due diligence" and "making the estimate" on how the COVID-19 and recent developments in China have affected the POGO industry.

Senators earlier revised the basis of the POGO's franchise fee to 5 percent of gross bets, from 5 percent of net winnings, after numerous reports that Chinese online gambling operators have been skirting the payment of proper taxes in the country.

In 2019, the Philippines collected some P6.42 billion in taxes from POGOs and their service providers, according to data from the DOF.

The country's real estate sector has also benefitted from POGOs as thousands of Chinese workers sought for apartments in various cities. 

But senators have been pushing for stricter regulation of the industry after various crimes - like corruption, prostitution, illegal drugs, kidnapping and human trafficking were linked to POGOs and their workers.