Tuesday, August 27, 2019

China has urged the Philippines to ban online gaming to support its crackdown on cross-border gambling, which it said foreign criminals had used to embezzle and launder funds as well as illegally recruit workers.

When Diokno was asked if he thinks online gambling firms were being used as money laundering conduits, he replied "not necessarily".

Benjamin Diokno, who is governor of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and head of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, has ordered the agency and the central bank's financial stability team to "put some sense to this online gambling".

The Philippine gaming regulator has stopped issuing licenses to online gambling firms, and lawmakers and some ministers have called for tighter controls on Chinese visitors, saying many are illegal workers whose presence raises security concerns.

Gambling is officially illegal in China, and Chinese officials know that these firms target the mainland and thus skirt the core of the Chinese gambling ban. This makes it difficult for them to formulate policy on POGOs outside of the binary outcomes of tolerance or closure.

But the rise of the POGOs is also a lesson for the Philippine government and industry on how to not disregard the social effects of large flows of migrant workers, whether for temporary employment or otherwise – especially in sectors such as tourism or construction.

POGOs primarily provide marketing, customer service and IT support for online gambling sites, mainly by hiring Chinese employees. The Philippine government estimates that there are about 130,000 of these imported workers in the country, but the number could easily be twice that. POGOs are primarily located in Manila and Makati. They can be found clustered in large condominium developments, residential subdivisions or re-purposed buildings, and are driven around in dedicated staff vehicles.

Clothing retail, food and other commercial businesses that have benefited from the growing offshore gaming industry in the country are likely to take a hit from the ongoing crackdown on the controversial sector

This developed as property giants assured their investors that their exposure to the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) industry is limited and would unlikely have a significant impact on them if regulators suddenly decide to shut down offshore gaming operations in the country.

But this view was too narrow and neglected the political and social dynamics that now drive perceptions of the industry.

When China looks at gambling, it sees mainly social and financial risks. Beijing is averse to people and families losing their savings or falling into debt. It is also likely concerned about the domestic backlash if Chinese workers here become victims of crime and extortion, in much the same way that the treatment of Filipino OFWs can become a national rallying cry.


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