“Filipinos are against casinos.”
That is what a politician argued last January 27 during the Senate’s hearing on the economic and social effects of online gambling businesses.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian cited a Pulse Asia survey claiming that at least “58 percent of the 1,200 respondents” did not favor Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs). The study found that most Filipinos believe this online gambling business is “harmful to society.”
Among those that answered the poll, 67% were concerned about the vice. Meanwhile, 57% pointed out the POGO-related crimes involving Chinese nationals, while 43% reasoned that POGOs have allegations of tax evasion. Those unhappy with the economic opportunities the industry gave Filipinos were at 33%, while 22% were worried about it being a cause of inflation in rents and residential or business property acquisitions.
Meanwhile, there were in favor of POGOs setting up gambling businesses in the country. About 19% of the 1,200 respondents believe that there were beneficial effects from the said industry.
Should Filipinos be worried about the gambling industry?
In terms of revenue, the gambling industry in the country fared well even during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
PhilStar said the local gaming industry had a P149 billion income in 2022. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) reported that its gross gaming revenue (GGR) ballooned as the health protocols relaxed. Meanwhile, casinos posted a 105% increase in revenue, or P44.75 billion.
Profit from licensees such as OKBET gave PAGCOR an output of P7.9 billion from P3.41 billion in 2021. The government agency also plans to increase the tax rate of the online gambling industry.
While a chunk of the government’s earnings was from the gambling industry, there is still a need for it to regulate, said Gatchalian. With that being said, he proposed that the regulator be “controlled.”
“In my view, it’s much cleaner to establish a separate gaming regulator regulating all gaming corporations including Pagcor itself,” pointed the senator during an appearance on CNN Philippines’ “The Source” last January 24. “Pagcor should be subjected to an independent regulator because they also operate casinos.”
An article by SIGMA stated that the Philippines is alleged to set a tax rate of 42.5% on “all online gaming revenue generated by land-based operators.” Besides, there will also be a 5% gaming system fee to the regulator, which is PAGCOR.
“PAGCOR makes money out of the licensees and the service providers,” Gatchalian argued. “On the other hand, they are making money, and they are making revenue. On the other hand, they are regulating, meaning they’re enforcing laws against these licensees.”
Filipinos should not be worried about POGOs and PIGOs. As Gatchalian said earlier, PAGCOR should answer to someone higher. As per the senator’s observation, the agency is just “handing out licenses” without proper investigation.
Hence, there are incidents of kidnapping and human trafficking linked to the gambling industry. Because of these incidents, gambling had a bad reputation among Filipinos, especially the business owners being Chinese nationals. If PAGCOR becomes stringent in allowing potential gambling operators, the criminal cases will be minimal if not avoided.
In terms of gambling being addictive, there is already a program by PAGCOR that help those with gambling addiction problems. Also, the agency reminds every gambler to practice responsible gaming. Licensed casinos also prevent their customers from spending too much in one go or spending all of their time gambling.