Sector Revival Amid Legislative Pressure

Despite calls from some Philippine senators to shut down the offshore gaming industry, Albay Representative Joey Salceda is highlighting the sector’s resurgence due to PAGCOR’s revamped Internet Gaming Licensee (IGL) system. As the House Ways and Means Committee chair, Salceda commended PAGCOR’s success, noting a 71% revenue increase from IGLs last year compared to 2022, even with fewer licenses issued.

New Licensing System Boosts Revenue

According to a report by the Philippine News Agency, quoted by Inside Asian Gaming, PAGCOR’s revised approach has transformed the offshore gaming landscape. PAGCOR has cracked down on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), ensuring the sector contributes positively to the economy. Salceda stated, “With Chairman Al Tengco and President and COO Amy Eisma at the helm, PAGCOR’s updated policies have significantly boosted revenue collection, despite a reduction in licensees. We are now more selective and collect more from each licensee.”

Revenue and Employment Growth

Salceda highlighted PAGCOR’s data showing Php5.1 billion collected from 87 licensees in 2023, compared to Php2.99 billion from 158 POGO licensees in 2022. This change followed Tengco’s mandate last year, placing all POGOs on probation and requiring reapplication for new IGL licenses to weed out bad actors.

Salceda addressed recent calls to abolish offshore gaming licenses: “We should phase out the bad and mediocre licensees, not the entire industry. Enforce the law.” He also noted that IGLs employ around 8,500 Chinese workers, a drop from 200,000 workers—both direct and indirect—under POGO. Today, about 25,000 of the 100,000 indirect employees of IGLs are Filipinos.

PAGCOR’s Role in Regulating and Modernizing the Sector

Salceda praised PAGCOR’s proactive stance against illegal operations and emphasized the need for more public awareness of their achievements. “PAGCOR has enforced stricter rules on POGOs, transforming the sector into one that generates more jobs for Filipinos, reducing dependence on Chinese demand or labor.”

Potential Consequences of a Ban

PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Alejandro H. Tengco warned that banning Internet Gaming Licensees (IGLs), previously known as POGOs, could drive legitimate operators underground. “This would complicate monitoring efforts and increase illegal operations, posing a greater challenge to law enforcement.”

Tengco stressed the potential revenue loss of over Php20 billion (US$341 million) annually if IGLs were banned, without any assurance that illegal activities would cease. He predicted that legitimate operators might continue their activities underground, increasing the risk of cybercrimes and other illegal activities.

While PAGCOR will respect Congress’s decision on the matter, Tengco reiterated that licensed IGLs are not the problem. “The real issue lies with criminal syndicates posing as POGOs. Addressing this requires intensified law enforcement and cooperation from all sectors.”

By implementing stricter regulations and selective licensing, PAGCOR has effectively modernized and cleaned up the offshore gaming industry. Despite ongoing controversy, these reforms are steering the sector toward a more sustainable and regulated future.

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