Philippines to close 175 offshore gambling companies and expel 40,000 Chinese workers

The Philippines will shut down the operations of 175 offshore gambling companies and expel around 40,000 Chinese workers, a Justice Department official said Monday, as part of a crackdown on the notoriously opaque online gambling industry.

The industry emerged in the Philippines in 2016 and has grown exponentially, with operators capitalizing on the country’s liberal gambling laws to target customers in China, where gambling is banned.

At their peak, the Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators, or POGO, employed more than 300,000 Chinese workers, but the pandemic and rising taxes have forced many to operate elsewhere.

“The crackdown was sparked by reports of murders, kidnappings and other crimes committed by Chinese nationals against other Chinese nationals,” Justice Department spokesman Jose Dominic Clavano said. .

The POGOs targeted by the closure had licenses that had expired or been revoked, for violations such as non-payment of government fees, Clavano said, adding that the eviction of Chinese workers would begin next month.

The government generated 7.2 billion pesos ($122.21 million) in 2020 and 3.9 billion last year in POGO fees alone, according to the Ministry of Finance. Economists estimate that considerably more money is spent on taxes, worker expenses and office rentals.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila, in a statement, said Beijing supports the deportation and crackdown on POGO-related crimes, adding that the government « strongly opposes and takes strict measures to curb the game. »

The Philippine regulator, which recently said there were 30 licensed POGO companies compared to 60 before the pandemic, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Real estate consultancy Leechiu Property Consultants estimates that a complete exit from the POGO industry would leave vacant 1.05 million square meters (259 acres) of office space – a third the size of New York’s Central Park – and 8, 9 billion pesos ($151 million) in lost annual rent.

The sector employs 201,000 Chinese and 111,000 Filipinos, according to data from Leechiu, which estimates that POGOs bring 190 billion pesos ($3.22 billion) to the economy each year, a boon for the industries. real estate and retail.

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