The elected council of one of Metro Manila’s more prominent regions has banned local and foreign-facing online gambling and related services within its city limits.
On December 15, the Pasig City Council unanimously passed an ordinance prohibiting online gambling operations, including all foreign-facing operations (POGOs) and domestic operations licensed by the regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
Ordinance No.49-2022 bans “operations, applications, and approval of licences to operate online games of chance, including, but not limited to, online casinos, E-games, online sabong [cockfighting], E-Bingo outlets, online poker, and computer gaming stations”.
The ban extends to POGOs, business process outsourcing (BPO) companies and “any related business thereof”, including PAGCOR-registered entities that offer technical support to online gambling operators.
The ordinance offers a grace period of one year, with the ban to come into effect on January 1, 2024, according to an unpublished copy of the document cited by the Manila Bulletin on December 16.
The ordinance also mandates fines or jail terms of up to 12 months for violators.
PAGCOR has yet to respond to the document, which is awaiting the signature of Pasig’s mayor. A PAGCOR spokesperson was unavailable for comment.
A preamble to the ordinance states that it seeks to “repress the evils of online gaming for chance” and notes “the recent spate of abduction cases involving employees of the [POGO and other] establishments and the social costs in general of online gambling”.
Councillor Simon Romulo Tantoco, who sponsored the ordinance, alleged to the Manila Bulletin that online gambling industry “interest groups” offered a “hefty amount of cash” to kill the initiative.
The pending Pasig City ban places pressure on other city administrations in Metro Manila to stand with, or turn their backs on, the online industry.
Pasig lies on the central eastern flank of Metro Manila and borders Makati, the upscale city and main business district of Manila that has traditionally housed online gambling operations.
However, Pasig has regularly featured in police raids on registered and illegal online gambling activity, including operations that take Chinese workers captive.
The Philippine online gambling sector is under pressure from some senators and other politicians to shut down operations altogether, including the mainstay POGO regime that has become a central plank of PAGCOR revenue.
Chinese government pressure and financial damage from the coronavirus pandemic and tax office crackdowns have added to the sector’s woes, though for now Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and PAGCOR management have stuck by the industry.