Date: 28.06.2024

by Mateusz Mazur

Philippine Senator Advocates for Complete Ban on Online Gambling

Philippine Senator Joel Villanueva has called on fellow Senate members to support Senate Bill 1281, which aims to prohibit all forms of online gambling in the country, including operations by the formerly named Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).

Concerns About POGOs

In his statement, Villanueva highlighted that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) needs to intensify efforts to shut down POGOs and other online gambling activities.

He cited numerous criminal activities linked to POGOs, such as torture, kidnapping, murder, and human trafficking, as evidence demanding immediate action from Pagcor.

Villanueva criticized Pagcor for failing to ensure that POGO operators conduct their operations lawfully and ethically.

Pagcor has faced challenges with some former POGO licensees tarnishing the sector’s reputation through tax avoidance, illegal employment, and non-payment of fees.

Despite implementing new regulations for POGOs in July last year, now referred to as Internet Gaming Licensees (IGLs), and converting 13 provisional IGL permits to full ones, concerns remain about the industry’s integrity.

Legislative Details

Senate Bill 1281, introduced by Villanueva in September 2022, proposes to ban all forms of online gambling and wagering through the internet. The bill stipulates penalties for involvement in online gambling, including up to six months in prison or fines up to PHP500,000 (approximately US$8,527). Villanueva urged Pagcor to investigate and address other easily accessible forms of online gambling.

Pagcor chairman Alejandro Tengco defended the legitimate offshore gaming operators, noting their significant contribution to government revenues, totaling over PHP5 billion (US$85.2 million) in 2023. However, another senator, Sherwin Gatchalian, also filed a bill in May seeking to outlaw offshore gaming operations.

The Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) raised concerns about the potential job losses for around 22,000 Filipinos employed by legal offshore gaming operators in the Metro Manila region if the ban is implemented. Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma assured that DOLE is preparing measures to support affected workers.