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Philippine Senator Sherwin Gatchalian files bill to ban POGOs

Philippine Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has introduced a bill to ban Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) citing rising criminality linked to the industry.

“The main goal is to outlaw and prohibit offshore gaming operations in the country. While the POGO industry has brought in revenue and jobs, the country has grappled with a surge in POGO-related crimes, raising concerns about the overall impact on the industry,” Gatchalian said in a statement released last Friday.

Senate Bill No. 2689, filed on May 21st, seeks to repeal the taxability of offshore gaming as provided by Republic Act 11590 which was made law by then-President Rodrigo Duterte in September of 2021.

Gatchalian, who is the current chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, cited several incidents of human trafficking and online scams linked to POGOs that have come to the Senate’s attention.

These incidents include a police raid at Clark Freeport Zone in May last year that saw around 1,000 foreigners and 100 Filipinos being ‘rescued’, and a subsequent raid in Las Piñas that involved about 2,700 suspected victims of human trafficking. In a separate raid last October, a ‘torture chamber’, aquarium-style viewing chamber, and massage parlors allegedly used for prostitution were uncovered in a POGO operation in Pasay City, Metro Manila.

More recently, the case of the “POGO Mayor” made headlines after authorities raided a facility in Bamban, Tarlac, following a tip off from an escaped Vietnamese worker.

“Various atrocities attributed to the industry have generated public outcry for a ban on the industry, further intensified by economic costs brought by such operations. Beyond the financial impact, the rise in human trafficking and online scams linked to POGOs is a moral failing we must address,” Gatchalian said.

Meanwhile, Philippine Senate President Francis Escudero is considering a broader ban on all forms of gambling instead of focusing solely on POGOs. Escudero stated, “I prefer to ban everything to get rid of gambling in the Philippines,” citing associated issues such as human trafficking, money laundering, and cyber fraud.

Frank Schuengel
Frank Schuengel
Frank Schuengel is an online gambling industry veteran with over twenty years of experience in Europe and Asia. Equally at home in the Isle of Man and the Philippines, he started his career as a sports trader before setting up and running whole operations, and more recently focusing on the regulatory and licensing side of things in the worlds of fiat and crypto eGaming. When he is not writing about gambling topics, he can be found cycling around Manila and advocating sustainable transport solutions for a Philippines based mobility magazine.

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