End to Philippine POGOs Could Leave up to 22,000 Unemployed, Cites Government Agency

A potential ban on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) could leave up to 22,000 Filipinos jobless, according to Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma. This alarming prospect comes amidst growing pressure from some lawmakers to completely outlaw POGOs in the country, citing concerns about their impact on society.

Thousands of unemployed Filipinos sign up for possible employment Public Employment Service Office in Manila (Source: GMA News)

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The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), the nation's gaming regulator, which is facing the possibility of being disbanded in favor of a smaller agency, attempted to address these concerns in July 2023. It implemented new regulations for POGOs, rebranding them as "Internet Gaming Licensees" (IGLs) and imposing stricter operational guidelines.

Related: The Philippines Moves Closer to Banning Entire POGO Gaming Segment

These reforms aimed to improve transparency and mitigate potential illegal activities within the industry. However, the recent calls for a complete ban suggest these efforts might be falling short.

To further tighten control, the DOLE has pledged to significantly tighten its screening process for foreign workers seeking permits to work in the offshore gaming sector. This move aims to ensure that only qualified individuals with legitimate purposes are employed and to minimize the risk of involvement in illegal activities. The stricter screening process will likely involve enhanced background checks, verification of employment purpose, and potentially stricter language proficiency requirements.

The push to ban POGOs is fueled by a multitude of concerns. Some lawmakers argue that these companies have contributed to a rise in crime rates, particularly in areas with high POGO concentrations.

These concerns often center around incidents of violence, illegal drug use, and involvement in prostitution rings, which some claim are linked to the influx of foreign POGO workers. Additionally, social problems like gambling addiction and cultural clashes within communities have been cited as negative consequences of the POGO industry.

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Scandals Rock the POGO Boat

The recent raids conducted by Philippine authorities on POGO operations suspected of illegal activity have further intensified calls for a complete shutdown. These raids uncovered instances of labor code violations, visa irregularities and even alleged money laundering activities. The involvement of some POGO companies in such illegal activities has significantly tarnished the industry's image and fueled public outrage.

The Chinese embassy in Manila has also added to the pressure on the Philippine government. China has a long-standing disapproval of its citizens working in these offshore gaming operations, which often target Chinese gamblers. The embassy's stance highlights the potential for international diplomatic complications if the POGO issue isn't addressed effectively.

The potential economic fallout from a POGO ban is a significant concern for the Philippine government. The industry employs a substantial number of Filipinos, particularly in the customer service sector, and contributes to the country's economy through taxes and fees. The DOLE's warning highlights the potential job losses and economic impact that could result from a complete ban. This makes the decision to regulate or eradicate POGOs a complex one, requiring careful consideration of both economic and social factors.

The DOLE's efforts to tighten regulations and the stance of the Chinese embassy suggest a potential path for reform. However, the strong push from some lawmakers for a complete ban indicates that the future of POGOs in the Philippines remains highly uncertain.


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