Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Senate Games and Amusement Committee to re-examine and possibly revise laws regulating the operations of casino-entertainment resorts, online gaming sites and junket casinos in the country.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 953, De Lima said the loose regulatory policies to monitor the casino resorts, online gaming sites, and junket casinos may make the country more susceptible to money laundering, fraud, and other illegal activities.
“The possibility of money laundering also concerns some industry players as the shroud of Internet anonymity coupled with loose regulatory policies may leave the industry susceptible to fraud and other illicit activities associated with high-stakes gambling,” she said.
To highlight its adverse effects, De Lima recalled the bribery scandal of self-proclaimed online gaming industry expert Wenceslao Sombero Jr., who was caught on CCTV handing over payoff money to Bureau of Immigration officers for the release of Chinese nationals arrested for illegally operating online gambling in the country in 2016.
Note that there are a number of Chinese gambling companies and Chinese gamblers in the country because gambling is illegal in China and is heavily opposed by its Communist government.
The Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has authorized 57 foreign gaming companies referred to as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) to operate in the Philippines, as of September 2018.
Currently, there are a total of four integrated casino-entertainment resorts operating in Metro Manila conveniently situated in close proximity to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to cater to their high-rolling, foreign clientele. A fifth integrated casino-entertainment resort in Manila is confirmed to open in 2020.
Aside from these, more casinos are scheduled to open in the coming years despite Mr. Duterte’s moratorium on new casinos effective Jan. 2018, which may place the gambling and casino industry at serious risk for market saturation and oversupply.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development Committee, underscored the need for the Senate to scrutinize the effects of the Philippine gambling industry from multiple perspectives to look at its overall impact to the country and the citizenry.
“Apart from its purported positive economic impacts, there are nevertheless lingering questions regarding the social costs of the influx and proliferation of integrated casino-entertainment resorts and POGOs within the country,” she said.
“A comprehensive and inclusive policy that seeks to address these issues should be of utmost importance if this industry is to truly benefit the Filipino people,” she added.
In filing the resolution, De Lima also expressed concern that dealers – including Filipinas – for online games are placed at even more risk of sexual harassment and exploitation by players online because they have to wear revealing clothes.
Also, considering that most POGO technical support employees are Chinese, De Lima noted that locals are reportedly facing high rental rates and rowdiness of some Chinese workers who have taken up residency near POGO’s office spaces.
Last May, De Lima filed SR No. 751, pressing for a Senate inquiry into the influx of Chinese nationals employed and residing in the Philippines which, among others, triggers property surge on many developed areas.
De Lima maintained that the Senate investigation is needed to establish and institutionalize a legal framework and strengthen applicable laws that can effectively and efficiently regulate and monitor the operations and activities, and address the social costs, related to integrated casino-entertainment resorts, online gambling, and gambling-based tourism in the country.