265 Arrested in Philippines Illegal Gambling Operation Raid

  • Joint police operation seized $128k, 467 mobile phones, 110 laptops in Las Piñas City hotel raid
  • PAGCOR says current coronavirus restrictions are making illegal operations easier to detect
  • POGOs can resume post-shutdown operations under strict employee safety, tax compliance measures
man being handcuffed by a police officer
A joint police raid on an illegal offshore gambling operation in the Philippines led to the arrest of 265 Chinese nationals. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A joint police operation

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has praised a joint police operation that saw 265 Chinese nationals arrested on Thursday night in Manila. The persons caught were allegedly running an illegal offshore gambling platform. 

seized ₱6.5m ($128,000) in addition to foreign currency bills, 467 mobile phones, 110 laptops, and other related equipment

Reports from local media at the weekend alleged that the illegal operation was based in a Las Piñas City hotel. The Las Piñas City Police, Southern Police District, and NCRPO Regional Special Operations Group joined forces in the hotel raid. Officers seized ₱6.5m ($128,000) in addition to foreign currency bills, 467 mobile phones, 110 laptops, and other related equipment.

PAGCOR, the state gaming regulator, categorizes illegal gambling operations of this kind as NOGOs, or non-registered offshore gaming operators. This is the second instance of an illegal POGO (Philippine offshore gaming operator) being shut down in recent weeks, with another facility tracked down in Makati City. 

Cracking down on illegal gambling 

Coronavirus quarantine measures that are still largely in place in the Philippines are making it easier for the authorities to track illegal operations.

PAGCOR is fully aware of which sites can resume their operations, making NOGOs easily identifiable

In a statement issued by the regulator on Saturday, the assistant vice president of the Offshore Gaming Licensing Department at PAGCOR, Jose Tria Jr., remarked: “These NOGOs are unaware that POGOs which resume operations will undergo thorough evaluation and inspection from PAGCOR.” He added that PAGCOR is fully aware of which sites can resume their operations, making NOGOs easily identifiable as a result. 

In a continuing fight against NOGOs, PAGCOR has been dealing very closely with the Department of Justice, the Office of Cybercrime, the Bureau of Immigration, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Philippine National Police.

A task force made up of members from these various groups gathers intelligence on illegal gambling operations, as well as conducting raids and arrests and prosecuting those involved. PAGCOR validates gambling licenses and provides business and tax information to help with the arrest and penalization of such operators.

Coronavirus causing issues

After a good start to the year, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a big dent in PAGCOR revenues. With all its operations halted, results for the first quarter of 2020 fell nearly 50%.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared a public health emergency on March 9. All land-based casinos, poker, slots, bingo and sports betting locations were closed on March 15. On March 18, POGOs were told to suspend online services.

This month, POGOs received the go-ahead to resume their operations once stringent conditions for tax compliance and employee safety are properly met. This includes ensuring that all POGOs have fully settled all tax, regulatory, and license fee obligations, as well as only having a maximum of 30% of staff working during a given shift.

Despite the drop in revenue, PAGCOR and some of its licensees have been contributing funds and equipment to help slow the spread of COVID-19. In mid-April, PAGCOR committed an additional $118.6m to government relief efforts. To date, there have been 12,718 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines, with 831 deaths.