Closed down since March 18, POGOs are now about to start up again and help the Philippines fight COVID-19 by contributing financially.
POGOs Back in Business, PAGCOR Says
Following several weeks of suspension of activities, the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has given the go-ahead to the country’s offshore casino industry to return to business under certain conditions.
Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) will open for business to help generate funds the government needs to bolsters its fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The offshore operators have been shut down since March 18 in order to comply with stricter tax regulations as well as to ensure employees’ safety measures amid the outbreak.
The government even had an idea to sell PAGCOR to help it raise the funds necessary to address the disease. Yet, this has been put on the backburner.
Settling Tax Liabilities and Operating at Reduced Capacity
Prior to resuming activities, however, POGOs will have to settle any outstanding tax disputes, including liabilities. The companies must also comply with the current regulatory and licenses fee payments framework.
PAGCOR has also set a condition for all POGOs to settle outstanding penalties. Regulatory fees to PAGCOR for April must have been settled, the regulator said. To prevent the further spread of the disease, PAGCOR will only allow POGOs to operate at a reduced capacity, around 30% of the total staff.
The companies will also have to provide shuttle services and transport employees to and from the site of casinos to limit risk of exposure. Employees showing symptoms or suspected of COVID-19 won’t be allowed back to work for the time being.
Any vulnerable individuals, such as seniors, pregnant women or individuals with compromised immune system will also have to stay home, PAGCOR specified. PAGCOR chairman and executive Andrea Domingo has confirmed that the key emphasis is on employees’ safety.
Domingo continued by acknowledging the important financial and economic role POGOs play in the Philippines, helping to bolster the country’s public purse as a whole. She reminded that 2% of POGOs’ Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) was paid as tax back to the regulator in the form of fees.
POGOs have also been showing commitment to fighting illegal gambling by increasing contributions to the regulator. In Q1, 2020, PAGCOR paid estimated PHP 1.80 billion or $36,000.
The money has been distributed between several beneficiaries, including the Universal Healthcare Law, which is mostly funded by gambling activities.
Not a Full Pardon
While POGOs are returning to fill in the vacuum left by the global suspension of sports and online gambling limbo, they will still have to comply with regulatory norms.
Philippine law enforcement agencies will keep close track on their operations and PAGCOR’s Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Department will be involved in full.
Gambling revenue from offshore operations fell 5.7 year-over-year, PAGCOR reported earlier this week, summing up that revenue through March 31 reached PHP 17.22 billion or $340,000.