Philippine Sports Regulator, Police Botch Raid On POGO Licensee

January 10, 2024
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Evidence of tension in online gambling enforcement in the Philippines has emerged via a botched raid by a sports gambling regulator on a legitimate offshore-facing online gambling operation.
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Evidence of tension in online gambling enforcement in the Philippines has emerged via a botched raid by a sports gambling regulator on a legitimate offshore-facing online gambling operation.

The Games and Amusements Board (GAB) on December 23 raided Tritech Technology Corp, a PAGCOR-licensed offshore-facing operator (POGO) based in Pasay City in Metro Manila, according to documents seen by the Rappler news service.

The raid, jointly conducted with the national police force’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), detained 173 foreign staff before the authorities realised they had raided the wrong company. The staff were released four days later, Rappler said.

The GAB — a regulator of professional sports and associated betting activity — has yet to comment on the matter on its website or Facebook page, and could not be contacted at publication time. PAGCOR has also yet to comment on the raid on its licensee.

The GAB and the CIDG had secured four search warrants for four floors of the HC Bay Hotel building near the Manila Bay shore to locate six alleged owners of Xing Yao Company and seize evidence of illegal gambling, the report said.

But when the authorities executed the raid, they detained 173 employees of “Tri Technology Corporation”, a POGO licensee listed as Tritech Technology Corp on PAGCOR’s website.

A court ordered the detainees to be released on December 27.

Rappler reported on Friday (January 5) that a CIDG spokesperson denied raiding the property, while the GAB did not respond to its questions.

However, Pasay police confirmed the raid in an interview with Rappler, adding that its officers had been actively excluded from the operation.

The Philippines has suffered a series of major raids on online gambling operations that has led to the detention and deportation of thousands of enslaved foreigners and the rescuing of a similar number of Filipinos, as well as to scrutiny of executive agencies and accelerating institutional calls for abolition of online gambling operations

But evidence of rivalry between enforcement organs is a new phenomenon in gambling governance, and drew a concerned response from the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission.

Spokesman Winston Casio told Rappler that more cooperation is needed for such investigations and the execution of court orders, as well as better handling of evidence.

“The commission fully respects the conduct of legitimate law enforcement rooted on valid orders of the courts,” Casio said.

“In saying this, [the commission] would like to believe that the operations conducted by GAB together with detailed personnel from the … CIDG is legitimate unless proven otherwise.

“In the case of Tritech, the question in everyone’s mind is why did they operate against a legitimate internet gaming license duly certified by PAGCOR.”

However, the GAB appears intent on accelerating enforcement of illegal online activity within its mandate, stating on Facebook on Tuesday (January 9) that it will strengthen identification of “illegal gambling websites and social applications, along with their respective URLs, for immediate blocking”.

To this end, the GAB is collaborating with listed telecommunications and internet giant PLDT and its subsidiary Smart Communications in “swiftly identifying and curbing suspected illegal websites” through its Anti-Illegal-Gambling Unit, it said.

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