Safeguarding legitimate POGOs from NOGOs

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    `It has now become incumbent on Pagcor and the legitimate POGO industry to police their own ranks and cleanse it from illegal operators called NOGOs (non-registered offshore gaming operators) which have been giving the industry a very bad name because of their involvement in criminal activities.’

    GOVERNMENT officials belonging to the other side of the political divide, specifically the opposition, have initially been critical of President Duterte’s decision to allow the limited opening of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) under the current quarantine levels in the country.

    But after the first shock, vitriol against POGO has visibly subsided, as even its critics have perhaps realized the pressing need of the government for fresh funds to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which has not shown any palpable flattening of the curve, with more than 220 new infections a day recorded.

    Then, too, critics will note that both the national government and the LGUs are now suffering from low revenue collections, as there is sparsely any economic activity going on under the lockdown. The idea touted by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to put the POGOs in harness, therefore, takes on a timely and necessary character.

    It has now become incumbent on Pagcor and the legitimate POGO industry to police their own ranks and cleanse it from illegal operators called NOGOs (non-registered offshore gaming operators) which have been giving the industry a very bad name because of their involvement in criminal activities.

    We note that members of the industry, particularly the electronic gaming service providers, have intensified their efforts to cleanse the POGO of illegals, and their first success is the arrest by the police of 265 Chinese nationals in Las Piñas City recently for unauthorized gaming.

    The Accredited Service Providers of Pagcor (ASAP) coordinated with law enforcers against these colorums, resulting in similar arrests, too, in Makati and Parañaque.

    According to Pagcor AVP for Offshore Gaming Licensing Department Atty. Jose Tria Jr., it has become easy for them to trace illegal offshore gaming operators since only several POGO sites will be given the green light to partially resume operations “subject to strict conditions.”

    He said these NOGOs are unaware that POGOs which will resume operations will undergo thorough evaluation and inspection from Pagcor. So the regulator knows which specific sites will be allowed to resume operations.

    Since they are now allowed to open, these operators should ensure that their group is duly compliant with government requirements and certifications such as tax clearances from the Bureau of Internal Revenue while faithfully following the laws and regulations governing legitimate business operations.

    Special attention is given by the service providers in the COVID-19 related protocols, such as physical distancing, wearing of face masks, washing of hands, sanitizing the workplace, etc.

    It is good that in this effort, Pagcor is getting full cooperation and support from the PNP, NBI, Bureau of Immigration and the Office of Cybercrime (OOC) under the Department of Justice. These agencies are cooperating in intelligence gathering on illegal online gambling, centralized information sharing, intelligence operations, surveillance, raids, arrest and prosecution of offenders.

    We cannot unconditionally endorse POGO since it still a form of gambling, although the “gambling” part takes place in areas outside the Philippines as spokesman Harry Roque pointed out, but the least the industry, the regulating agency and the law enforcers could do is uphold and follow the law with respect to their operations.

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