PAGCOR Blacklists Clark Compound, Fines Mogul Over Raid

May 31, 2023
The Philippine gambling regulator has de-registered a support company that enslaved more than 1,100 foreign and local online gaming workers, fined a leading online gambling network and blacklisted the compound that hosted the operation.


The Philippine gambling regulator has de-registered a support company that enslaved more than 1,100 foreign and local online gaming workers, fined a leading online gambling network and blacklisted the compound that hosted the operation.

Stung by the rescue of enslaved workers at the online gambling compound in Clark Freeport in early May, regulator PAGCOR has declared the Clark Sun Valley Hub Corp site a no-go zone for gaming and fined affiliated online gambling heavyweight Oriental Game $350,000.

The additional punishments followed the cancelling of accreditation for information technology support company CGC Technologies, a service provider using the Clark Sun Valley Hub site and operating under Oriental Game's watch.

“This serves as a warning to all our offshore gaming licensees and accredited service providers that PAGCOR is serious in its mission to uphold responsible and regulated gaming in the country,” chairman and CEO Alejandro Tengco said in a statement on Tuesday (May 30).

“While we see the potential of offshore gaming in terms of our revenue-generation efforts, we do not condone their involvement in any criminal activity that violates the rights … not only of Filipinos but of other nationalities as well.”

CGC was using six buildings at the site at the time of the multi-agency raid, the statement said, including four that were not accredited by PAGCOR.

PAGCOR described the location as a “POGO hub”, referring to foreign-facing online gambling licensees, and defined such hubs as a de facto autonomous and sealable compound that “houses the operations, logistical, administrative and support services of PAGCOR-licensed offshore gaming operators and service providers”.

“Among the facilities found in a POGO hub are office and residential spaces, food establishments, grocery stores or supermarkets, health and wellness facilities, recreational facilities, among others.”

The Philippines is currently agonising over the departure of its nationals to work in scam operations elsewhere in Southeast Asia, with some politicians warning of potential victims supplying fake documentation to the immigration authorities when departing the Philippines.

The raid in Clark Freeport, however, rescued hundreds of Vietnamese, Chinese and Indonesians and a smattering of Southeast and East Asians from other nations, as well as 172 Filipinos.

The incident is acutely embarrassing for an administration attempting to gentrify an online gambling segment struggling to mitigate pandemic damage, even while triggering multiple Senate inquiries and calls for its closure over rampant crime.

“PAGCOR would like to remind foreign nationals who are being offered attractive employment opportunities in the Philippines to check the credibility of the companies that they are applying in,” Tengco said.

“By going the extra mile, they can protect themselves from possible scams and human trafficking activities.”

One-time presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe on Tuesday lamented “lax enforcement” at home after years of smaller incidents involving human trafficking and the gaming industry.

"The problem persists and our borders have remained porous, no thanks to the lax enforcement of the government agencies in charge," she said.

Poe called for new checks on the “background and track record of the ones that are heading these agencies”.

One element that has largely escaped media coverage of the raid is the hefty fine for Oriental Game for “its failure to ensure the legitimate conduct of CGC’s business”.

Oriental Game is part of the sprawling online and land-based gambling empire of Kim Wong, a Philippine national implicated in receiving millions of dollars out of $101m in funds hacked from the Bangladesh central bank’s account with the US Federal Reserve in New York in 2016.

Wong’s Midas Hotel & Casino near Entertainment City was one of the Philippine casinos that processed some $81m in cash carried by Chinese couriers and laundered through a local bank, according to a Bangladesh Bank court filing in the US.

Wong’s gaming network received between $21m and $35m of the North Korean-hacked funds, and Wong returned around $15m of the cash to the government, the filing said.

Wong was later investigated by the Senate and anti-money laundering officials, but the Department of Justice declined to prosecute, citing a lack of evidence, despite a complaint from the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

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