Philippines cracks down on 175 offshore gambling firms, to deport 40,000 Chinese workers

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A total of 175 offshore gambling firms will be shut down and about 40,000 Chinese workers will be deported as part of a crackdown on the opaque online gaming industry in the Philippines, stated a justice ministry official.

Many Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) are under fire after a series of crackdown by Philippine justice ministry due to “large number of reports of murder, kidnapping and other crimes committed by Chinese nationals against fellow Chinese nationals,” spokesperson Jose Dominic Clavano said.

The gambling sector emerged around 2016 in the Philippines and has expanded rapidly. The operators made full use of the country’s liberal gaming laws to target customers in China, where gambling is prohibited.

More than 300,000 Chinese workers were employed by the POGOs during the peak of it but many were forced to work elsewhere due to the pandemic and high taxes.

The operators that are part of the shut down plan either had expired licenses or had their licenses revoked due to non-payment of government fees. Meanwhile, the deportation of the Chinese workers would start next month, Calvano added. The Government earned around 7.2 billion pesos ($122.21 million) during 2020 and 3.9 billion pesos in 2021 as fees according to the finance ministry, while economists estimate considerably larger amounts are being spent on taxes, workers’ spending and office rental.

The Chinese embassy in Manila stated Beijing supports the deportation and crackdown on POGO-related crimes, also adding “the government firmly opposes and takes tough measures to combat gambling”.

Leechiu Property Consultants, one of the top real estate consulting firms in the Philippines, estimated that a complete exit of POGOs would leave around 1.05 million square meters of office space vacant and a loss of about 8.9 billion pesos in annual rent.

According to the same data by Leechiu around 201,000 Chinese and 111,000 Filipinos are employed in the industry and provides around 190 billion pesos to the economy each year.