Authorities crack down on illegal offshore gambling

Authorities have launched a crackdown on illegal offshore gambling operators, as calls to ban these activities mount due to their alleged links to criminal syndicates.

Around 250 to 300 offshore gambling firms are operating in the Philippines without a licence, the chief of the country’s gaming regulator said on Thursday, around six times more than the 46 legitimate gaming operators in the country.

“With police, we search for these illegal operators, conduct raids, and shut them down,” Alejandro Tengco, chairman of state regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, said.

The online gaming industry emerged in the Philippines in 2016 and grew exponentially as operators capitalised on the country’s liberal gaming laws to target customers in China, where gambling is banned.

At their peak, Philippine offshore gambling operators, or Pogos, totalled 300 and employed more than 300,000 Chinese workers. But the pandemic and tighter tax rules have forced many to relocate or go underground, Tengco said.

The crackdown was triggered by reports of Pogo-related crimes such as human trafficking, torture, kidnapping, and fraudulent activities like credit card, crypto investment, and “love scams” – when criminals adopt fake online identities to con victims.

In March, law enforcers raided a Pogo facility in Pampanga province that led to the rescue of more than 800 workers, including Filipino and Chinese nationals, local media reported. — Reuters

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