Government pressure and pandemic uncertainty have finally taken their toll on the Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs) after several years of media scandals. According to local outlet GMA News reports, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) have confirmed that at least two operators have left the country over tax “issues” with the government.
Andrea Domingo, PAGCOR chair and chief executive officer, established that Macau’s gambling giant, Suncity, had chosen to leave the country. At the same time, Jose Tria, assistant vice president for offshore gaming licensing separately, confirmed Don Tencess Asian Solutions had sought to cancel their license. Jose indicated that he heard other companies also plan to cancel their licenses, but he has not received their official letters, so he cannot name them yet. He also confirmed that other jurisdictions have opened up offering better tax rates and friendlier environment.
Senators doubted that they had paid their taxes publicly when PAGCOR announced 11 POGOs had been cleared to resume operators. The licensed POGOs are questioned and threatened with a shutdown of the industry when locally unlicensed operations start causing problems. Tria also confirmed that 13 POGO service providers had also ceased operations in addition to the two exiting POGOs. He said they can’t really step in and solve tax disputes as a gambling regulator. They are working on ways to allow the resumption of their operations.
He added that they are not tax experts, and it is for POGOs to question the applicability of the franchise tax. They will follow whatever the court decides. Tria added that it would be a loss for the Philippines one way or another, assuming POGOs continue to be the whipping boy and favorite distraction for politicians and media pundits. PAGCOR confirms that the online gambling industry employs more than 31,000 Filipinos, take around 13% of all office demand and pay in as much as $120 million to the government, with an estimated P21.6 billion outstanding.