Kidnappings and other crimes have soiled the illicit online casinos called euphemistically as Philippine Overseas Gaming Operations (POGOs) by Chinese entrepreneurs, and China has not been able to cripple these operations despite the close ties of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In a report for CNN early on Sunday, June 14, 2020, Julie Zaugg said the increase in the number of POGOs, which employs 150,000 Chinese, has led to an increase in criminality, with Chinese workers kidnapping or murdering their compatriots because of gambling debts. Manila has become the number one hotspot worldwide for online gaming, in front of Malta, the Isle of Man and Curacao, according to David Lee, a lawyer at Taiwanese firm Lin & Partners who specializes in gaming laws, Zaugg wrote. Payments are made through Jack Ma’s Alipay and other Chinese remittance firms.

"The Philippines pioneered online casinos in the early 2000s, when Cagayan, a province to the north of the country, started awarding licenses to a handful of operators," explains Ben Lee, the founder of IGamiX, a Macao-based consultancy firm focused on the gaming industry in Asia. "But they really took off in 2016, when President Duterte came into office." In 2018, online casinos paid 7.4 billion pesos ($145 million) in licensing and other regulatory fees, PAGCOR told CNN.

The Department of Finance said it expects to collect P24-billion ($471 million) per year in taxes from POGO workers. Yet, POGOs only paid P579 million in 2018, a mere 2.4% of what they owe, a fuming official of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) claimed.

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