Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Wednesday that the country has no plans to ban online gambling, despite increasing demands from China that the practice be outlawed.
Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, or POGOs, often face the Chinese market, where gambling is banned. The industry has been expanding dramatically and employs huge numbers of Chinese nationals who reside in the Philippines and offer Mandarin-language gambling services to gamblers in mainland China.
President Duterte confirmed that cross-border gambling was discussed during a meeting between the two heads of state last week. President Jinping made his request subtly, in the form of an offhand comment, while a spokesperson for the Chinese government had previously made a more explicit demand.
The Philippine government is taking steps to better regulate the industry. The country’s gaming industry regulator announced on August 19 that it would cease accepting applications for online gambling platforms in order to better examine the social impact of gaming and the regulations governing the industry.
President Duterte’s reasoning is that despite his personal distaste for online gambling, banning the activity could have serious implications for the Philippine economy. The recent boom in POGO licensees has brought with it significant growth in the Philippine real estate market. The industry provides jobs for citizens and revenues for the government.
Online gambling platform operators are also required to pay taxes and fees to the Philippine government, though some reports have indicated that the government could be missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue due to unreported income.
The Chinese government has had some success in a campaign to rid East Asia of gambling. The government of Cambodia has ended its online gambling licensing program, and the government of Vietnam recently carried out a joint operation with Chinese authorities to bring down an online gambling operation that targeted the Chinese market.