Manila's Valenzuela City Bans Online Gambling Operations

June 26, 2023
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The city of Valenzuela in northwestern Metro Manila has banned foreign facing online gambling operators (POGOs), becoming the third Manila locality to place restrictions on the struggling industry segment.

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The city of Valenzuela in northwestern Metro Manila has banned foreign facing online gambling operators (POGOs), becoming the third Manila locality to place restrictions on the struggling industry segment.

Valenzuela Mayor Weslie Gatchalian late last week signed an ordinance passed by the Valenzuela City Council on June 5 that disallows POGOs and POGO service providers from operating within city limits, according to the city government website.

The Manila Times on Sunday quoted Gatchalian as saying the decision to ban POGOs was carefully considered.

“Our legal department needed time to analyse this because we do not want to go against national agencies, but we all know that gambling can destroy the lives of the people,” he said.

Gatchalian had strong support from city councillors, who warned of “evils and social ills” generated by POGO activities in the Philippines.

“The city government of Valenzuela genuinely believes that the adverse impacts of POGOs surpass their alleged economic benefits and can potentially worsen existing social ills while posing a threat to the country's overall economic stability,” the Manila Times quoted Vice Mayor Lorie Natividad-Borja and three councillors as saying in a joint statement.

The councillors also cited national security considerations for their decision, given that POGOs have traditionally relied on a large workforce of Chinese nationals.

They also pointed to allegations of POGO licensee association with criminal activities such as “money laundering, human trafficking and even prostitution”, as well as tax evasion and aberrant incidents such as residents using local government food aid funds to gamble online.

The ban makes Valenzuela the third of 17 Metro Manila local governments to ban or obstruct POGO operations.

Quezon City, Manila’s most populous region, slapped a moratorium on new POGO licensee operations in early 2020.

Neighbouring Pasig City, to Quezon’s southeast, banned POGO and domestic-facing operators last December, as well as all other online gambling such as sabong (cockfighting), bingo and poker, although the grace period for the ban does not end until December 31 this year.

Clark Freeport, to Manila’s north, has also placed a ban on new online gambling operations within its jurisdiction following the rescue of more than 1,100 enslaved workers in a POGO-linked Clark compound used for cyber scamming.

Compared with Clark and Quezon in particular, the Valenzuela ban is more symbolic given it is not a popular location for online gambling interests.

However, the symbolism is damaging enough for an online gambling industry that continues to struggle with hostility in the Senate, pressure from the Chinese government, and tightening government audits and regulation.

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