POGO ban would have little economic impact: Governor

Banning online gambling in the Philippines would have little impact on the economy, the country’s central bank governor has said, adding he would prefer the firms to leave the country.

“There’s some benefits, in terms of if they pay their taxes but there are also some risks. I tend to be risk averse. I’d rather they leave, if I have my way,” Benjamin E. Diokno told Reuters on the sidelines of a business event in Singapore.

Diokno said that the industry contributed only “a few billion” pesos in tax and had little impact on the real estate sector, while he said it presented “a risk of money laundering.”

The central bank began a review of the impact of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) licensees on the economy after China urged the Philippines to ban online gambling targeting its nationals.

So far the government has resisted saying the POGOs generate significant revenue and are also driving gains in the real estate sector, particularly in Manila. The firms are projected to generate revenue of about PHP8 billion ($154.5 million) this year. 

Still, concern has been mounting that the companies are employing hundreds of thousands of workers who do not have employment permits, while many are also not paying taxes. 

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. has put a temporary suspension on new licenses in place while it studies how to better regulate the sector.