Villanueva hits Pagcor’s lax regulation of offshore gaming operators
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) has allegedly been lax in regulating offshore gaming operators amid the influx of illegal foreign employees in the country, Senator Joel Villanueva said.
“We are puzzled by the apparent lack of regulatory supervision that the Pagcor should be exercising. It cannot even produce basic data, such as the number of employees of their Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (Pogo) licensees,” Villanueva said in a statement on Wednesday.
The senator said Pagcor only issues licenses to the so-called “virtual casinos” but does not keep itself well-versed with the companies’ actual operations.
“Ayon sa resource person ng Pagcor, sinabi nila na may 58 [Pogo] licensees sa buong bansa. Ngunit mahirap po atang paniwalaan iyon, dahil libu-libo na ang nahuhuli ng ating mga awtoridad tulad ng Bureau of Immigration (BI), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), at Philippine National Police (PNP) na iligal na dayuhang manggagawa,” Villanueva said.
(According to Pagcor’s resource person, they have issued 58 Pogo licenses int he country. But it is hard to believe that because authorities have already arrested thousands of illegal foreign workers.)
“Even the Department of Finance (DOF) is starting to get alarmed about the extent of [Pogo]s here because we may be forgoing a lot of revenue from these firms and their employees,” he added.
Earlier, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that the country is losing at least P3 billion in tax revenues each month from foreign workers in the offshore gaming industry.
Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development, noted the difference in Pagcor’s treatment of workers employed in traditional casinos against those who work in Pagcor-licensed Pogos.
The senator explained that Pagcor requires workers directly involved in gaming operations to secure a gaming employment license (GEL), which ensures one’s fitness to work in a gaming facility as well as their track record as a casino worker.
He also noted that to obtain GEL, foreign workers must first secure an alien employment permit (AEP) from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). This is meant to regulate the entry of foreign workers.
The DOLE validates foreign workers who are seeking employment in the country to ensure that no Filipino is able or willing to take on the job a foreigner is applying for.
However, the inquiry has found that securing GEL does not apply to workers in Pogos.
“Why is there a double standard when it comes to the issuance of Gaming Employment Licenses? Since [Pogo] operations are based here and employees are involved in the actual gaming process, GELs should be issued to each employee as mandated by prevailing gaming regulations,” Villanueva said.
“Malinaw po na dapat lahat ng empleyado ng Pagcor licensees ay dapat kumuha ng GEL, kasama na ang mga nagtatrabaho sa [Pogo],” he added.
(It is clear that all Pagcor employees must get GEL as well as those working in Pogos.)
He also noted that the influx of illegal foreign workers can be attributed to the rise of the offshore gaming industry, as stated by BI Commissioner Jaime Morente, who was present during the hearing.
According to Villanueva, the NBI has already arrested and charged 167 foreign workers due to various offenses last year, with 114 of them involved in illegal online gambling.
The senator further said that while the committee may issue a completed report on its probe in May, reopening the investigation is still possible if necessary. /ee
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.