Domestic Philippine Gambling Growth To Kill POGOs For Good?

As the Philippines continues to climb out of the coronavirus pandemic that’s shuttered much of the gambling market and closed countless downmarket businesses over the last two years, daily good news now seems the order of the day.

Every time we put legal Philippine casinos under the microscope, it seems like the entire domestic market is making gain after gain with nary a bad bet or a bad beat.

For gamblers themselves, the rollout of domestic online casino and sports betting options has tempered the (hopefully temporary) loss of eSabong betting.

The shuttering of these online cockfighting services in the waning days of the Rodrigo Duterte administration is practically the one “black eye” for the market since its initial reopening back in 2021.

However, even though online sabong dominated the headlines for much of 2022 (particularly in the run up to the Philippine Presidential election), it wasn’t the only controversial gaming development in recent memory.

Before the pandemic, Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators – or POGOs – were all the rage.

At that time, iGaming wasn’t allowed to be hosted by domestic Philippine casinos or offered to local Philippine gamblers. However, PAGCOR did oversee offshore casino operations hosted in the Philippines that were limited to accepting non-Filipino gamblers.

For a time, the controversy was manageable, as POGOs were doing good business. Even Xi Jinping, President of China and the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, implored then-President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte to shutter the POGOs.

After the request was rejected, attacks against POGOs began to pick up steam. This anti-POGO hit piece from CAN Insider is a good example of how the narrative would be built going forward.

Ultimately, though, POGOs were only slowed down by the coronavirus pandemic, not by public outrage.

Their tech centers and live-dealer casino studios suffered from work shortages, and their once-robust Chinese clientele faced economic uncertainty and heightened government scrutiny in their own home country.

This downturn in staffing and patronage led to half of the Philippines’ POGO enterprises being shuttered indefinitely.

The other death knell for POGOs similarly has nothing to do with the typical smears against the industry. Instead, most operators simply failed to pay the required taxes mandated by Philippine gambling law.

Today, tax revenue from POGOs is all but dried up compared to the numbers from 2018 and 2019.

In the first quarter of 2022, PAGCOR collected just P1.55 billion from these operations, as reported by the Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). That’s just $27.7 million.

When the POGO tax law was passed back in 2016, the 2022 projection was P32 billion. Last year, new projections – as a result of the passage of new gambling finance laws – more than doubled that number to P76 billion.

Now, those numbers were for the entire year, but extrapolating the current figures out only gets the 2022 haul up to P6.2 billion.

While these numbers aren’t nothing, they’d actually be down from the $7.18 billion collected in 2020 – during the COVID lockdowns!

In 2021, POGO taxes fell to just P3.91 billion, so there’s a chance that this year could actually do better than last year, but the jury’s still out.

Regardless, though, POGOs may now be encroaching on “more trouble than they’re worth” territory.

Of course, that’s not really the offshore gambling we’re worried about. At least, not as players.

Because even though the Philippines now offers limited online iGaming and online MSW sports betting to various VIP residents (i.e. established casino gamblers who meet the minimum income requirements to participate), the vast majority of Filipino gamblers have been – and will continue to be –  able to bet online at legit Philippine casinos, sportsbooks, and poker rooms that operate outside the island’s national borders.

All the sites recommended here fit the bill, and joining is fast and free.

And best of all, PAGCOR only makes a little less off these sites than they do their own POGO operations!