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Friday, September 4, 2020

PAGCOR licensed online gambling - What operators are safe for Filipinos?



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The Philippines is the hotspot for gambling in South-East Asia, and this country keeps attracting players from different parts of the world. The gambling industry in the Philippines is so developed thanks to the precise law regulations related to the land-based casinos. However, some extra efforts need to be made in the sphere of online gambling since there are more strict rules imposed on online markets. All gambling activities have been regulated by PAGCOR, a government-owned and controlled corporation.

What is PAGCOR?

PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) has been established in 1976 and started operating the floating casino in the Manila Bay one year after. However, the corporation turned its focus on the land-based casinos after the floating casino burned up in 1979. PAGCOR had an instrumental role in the regulation of gambling activities, and it contributed a lot to the gambling community. This organization is one of the significant contributors to government revenue, right behind the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs. In 2007, the corporation got a 25-year extension on its regulation and licensing arrangements. PAGCOR is the only licensing regulator for all land-based and online casinos based in the Philippines, except for the Cagayan-Freeport area, which has the autonomy to put in place its own set of regulators. The Philippine residents are allowed to play casino games at the offshore operators, and lots of worldwide-known online casinos admit players from the Philippines. It also regulates POGO (Philippines Offshore Gaming Operators). The list of gambling operators with websites licensed from PAGCOR can be seen on online-gambling.com.

Controversies around Online Casinos

However, there were several controversies related to POGOs recently. The rapid expansion of POGOs is linked with the massive Chinese influence on the Philippines' government. The majority of POGO players are coming from China, and many Chinese workers have been recruited to operate the business. Although there are around 70.000 of those just in the Manila-based POGOs, there are a lot of illegal workers since there are more than 200 POGOs that are operating without a license. Also, a recent decision of the Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte to allow the reopening of online Chinese casinos fired up the discussions. Lots of local companies have been under a two-month lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but still, the decision of reopening online casinos was justified as an "essential service." POGOs have been reopened on May 1st at 30% capacity and under specific rules.

Of course, these events kicked-off plenty of debates. At the same time, the gambling opponents cannot understand how this industry is considered as essential, while many others face the colossal crisis, the ones who are standing behind the legislation claim that the revenue from gambling activities cannot be compensated in the government's budget.

Growth of the Philippines' Gambling Industry

We have already mentioned that the Philippines is one of the most attractive gambling destinations. The industry growth is expected to hit 20% in the next years, thanks to the numerous luxury casino resorts and possibilities for online gamblings. Since gambling activities are prohibited in many nearby countries, the Philippines are one of the top-rated destinations for Sout-East Asians.

Of course, PAGCOR had a crucial role in leveraging the gambling industry to these hights. PAGCOR put significant efforts to transform gambling in the Philippines and bring a Vegas-like experience in brick-and-mortar casinos. One of the structures designed to catapult this country to a premium gambling destination is the Entertainment City. E-City is located in the Bay area of Manila, and four casinos make this mega-complex: Resorts World Manila, Solaire Resort & Casino, City of Dreams, and Okada Manila. There are also some rumors about building a viewing tower similar to the Seattle Space Needle. In case they come true, it might be one of the most massive towers in the world, which would add to the allure of the Entertainment City.

Thanks to the capital projects like E-City, the Philippines can challenge Macau as the top gambling destination in this part of the world.

Online Gambling Licenses

Although the Philippines online gambling licensing has been enabled by the Interactive Gaming Act of 2003, the government introduced a new category of offshore licenses in 2017. The intention behind this decision is to allow online sports betting in the country. On the other hand, all online gambling operators that operate in the Philippines are not allowed to run their services to the locals. However, licensed operators can offer their services to players outside of the Philippines.

Licensing rules in the Philippines are pretty strict, especially for online gambling. PAGCOR takes fraud and player protection very seriously. The gaming company needs to have a sufficient amount in cash to cover all player balances. Gambling companies need to follow Anti-Money Laundering Regulations, counter-terrorism financing regulations, the Unusual Transactions Act and Know Your Customer Policies. Those are just the principal regulations to follow, and several others should be followed as well. This is why the PAGCOR license is one of the most respected ones in the gambling industry.

Dozens of online casinos obtained an offshore license, including operators such as Imperial Choice Limited, Marco Polo enterprises Limited, and Prestige IOM Limited. However, at the end of 2019, PAGCOR announced that it would stop issuing licenses for both land-based and online casinos. They wanted to take time and improve their regulation policies further. Those policies are mostly related to POGOs due to their increased popularity. The main idea behind this is to protect the gaming industry by avoiding giving out licenses blatantly.

The future of online gambling in the Philippines

Despite recent controversies related to POGOs, the online gambling industry in the Philippines keeps growing. The Covid-19 pandemic temporarily shut down the land-based venues, while the online market continued its operations. Both local and foreign players can enjoy online gambling in the Philippines, and the market is predicted to keep growing even after brick-and-mortar casinos get reopened. The gaming industry is going to remain one of the primary revenue sources for the country's economy.

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