Duterte to consider online gambling ban

President Rodrigo Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte will study whether to ban online gambling in the Philippines following a meeting with President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Friday, according to media reports.

Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters that the matter had been discussed and that Duterte would “most likely study” the possibility. He didn’t otherwise say how Duterte had responded.

China has launched a major crackdown on online gambling targeting Mainland Chinese, in particular operating out of the Philippines and Cambodia. 

In response to Beijing’s concerns, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) has said it would suspend the issuance of new Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGOs) pending further review. 

However, it stopped short of announcing a ban amidst projections of PHP8 billion in revenue from the sector this year.

Beijing has said it appreciated the action, but wants Manila to go further. 

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese have flooded into the Philippines in online gaming firms in the past few years and are one of the major contributors to the real estate market in the capital.

As a result, shares in Philippine property stocks have plunged due to the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the POGOs. Megaworld stock for instance is now trading 21 percent lower than its 52-week high.

Last week, the Philippines’ anti-money laundering body said it was studying the possible impact on the economy should the online gambling industry shut down overnight.

“What if all of a sudden they decide to pack up and leave? What will be the impact of that on the property sector, the food industry, the restaurants? This is part of my job as BSP governor,” Benjamin Diokno, who is governor of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and head of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, told an economic forum last Tuesday. 

When Diokno was asked whether he thought online gambling firms were being used for money laundering, he replied: “not necessarily.”