Online gambling has been at the center of major controversy in the Philippines for the past few months. China has been actively calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to end the country’s internet gambling operations. This week, Duterte announced that he’s rejecting the plan to ban online gambling in the Philippines.
It’s a relief for online gaming companies here and a disappointment to officials in the Chinese government. Let’s take a look at why China wants online gambling in the Philippines to end and why Duterte is pushing against this idea.
The Philippines has a very unique set of gambling laws. In 1975, then-president Ferdinand Marcos passed new laws to better regulate the country’s land-based gambling operations. Under these new laws, the Philippines created PAGCOR, a government body responsible for monitoring and collecting revenue from the gaming industry.
PAGCOR also owns and operates many of the casinos in the Philippines. Today, this group controls more than 45 land-based casinos throughout the country. In more recent years, PAGCOR has begun monitoring the country’s internet gambling operations.
Under the current set of gambling laws, online gambling companies based in the Philippines cannot offer their services to Filipino players. The government here allows online gambling companies (called POGOs) to operate, but they must only promote their services to players overseas.
Most of the POGOs that run in the Philippines now target Chinese players. This is becoming a serious issue for the Chinese government, which bans all forms of gambling. Many Chinese nationals now work in the Philippines for these POGOs and are helping to offer more gaming opportunities to Chinese players.
Just last week, officials in the Chinese government asked for POGOs to close down. President Xi Jinping even discussed the issue with Rodrigo Duterte. Interestingly, Duterte has officially rejected the plan to ban online gambling in the Philippines.
Many gaming analysts predicted that Duterte would take drastic steps to limit the Philippines’ gambling industry after his meeting with Xi Jinping. He’s been working hard to better relations with China, and the gambling industry is becoming a serious issue between the two countries. He’s claiming to be against the idea of banning online gambling.
Duterte spoke at a news conference this week, days after he returned from his visit to China. During the conference, he gave his reasons for keeping the country’s online gambling industry up and running.
“I decide that we need it,” he said. “Many [would] lose their jobs. Anyway, it’s government-controlled. There’s not much work [in the Philippines]. If we have progressed as a country, and had many jobs then you wouldn’t have this stupid thing.”
There’s certainly some validity to this statement. The internet gambling industry employees thousands of local residents. The POGO’s that operate here employ thousands of Chinese nationals as well.
The Philippines now has one of the fastest-growing online gambling industries in the world. The government is earning major revenue from this industry. This is likely a key reason why Duterte is hesitant to ban online gambling.
The government here is, however, taking some steps to limit this industry. Last month, PAGCOR announced that it has stopped granting any more licenses to foreign gambling companies. Some feel this was only done to appease the Chinese government.
Several other nearby countries are beginning to ramp up their gambling restrictions, too. Cambodia has recently decided to completely shut down its online gambling industry.
The Philippines’ gambling industry continues to grow. Some gambling experts believe that, in time, this country could have one of the most lucrative gambling markets in the world.
Are you surprised that Duterte is choosing not to ban online gambling in the Philippines? How will China respond? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!
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