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Opinion

EDITORIAL — From POGO to IGL

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL � From POGO to IGL

It looks like the government is finally preparing to phase out Philippine offshore gaming operator or POGO firms – by transforming them into so-called IGLs, or internet gaming licensees. POGO opponents fear that this is a case of having the same dog with a different collar.

In October last year, the chairman and CEO of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. had disclosed the change in the nomenclature and acronym from POGO to IGL, in an interview with a global industry publication during a gaming expo in Las Vegas. As of last week, PAGCOR had reportedly issued regular licenses to 40 IGLs, along with nine provisional licenses.

Several senators and other quarters have been calling for a complete stop to POGO operations amid a growing list of criminal activities associated with the firms, among them financial fraud and other cyber scams. POGO operators and foreign employees have also been arrested for offenses including murder, torture, kidnapping for ransom and serious illegal detention, drug deals and human trafficking.

Both the previous and current administrations, however, seem to have a sentimental attachment to POGOs, and have rejected calls for a total ban on offshore gaming. Sentimental, because the refusal can’t be due to revenues contributed by POGOs. All accounts point to POGOs not paying the proper taxes, with the government unable to compel the firms to pay more.

The POGOs have survived calls for their abolition despite the worsening maritime row between the Philippines and China. Offshore gaming is prohibited in China, and Beijing has been trying to persuade the Philippines to abolish POGOs, citing the damage they engender in society. Both POGO operators and most of their clients are Chinese citizens. Yet despite public pronouncements from Beijing about the evils spawned by POGOs, the Duterte administration rejected China’s calls for their abolition.

These days POGO hubs are also suspected of launching cyber attacks on Philippine targets including government agencies. Officials of the Department of Information and Communications Technology themselves have admitted the weakness of cyber regulation and security capabilities of the Philippines. As PAGCOR moves to expand the IGL program, the government must guard against opening the floodgates to more cyber attacks and POGO-related illegal activities.

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