Philippines gaming regulator PAGCOR has cited the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for its decision to cancel the licenses of 22 Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).
The full list of POGOs to have their licenses cancelled by PAGCOR was published late last week by the Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) – six of which were not registered with the AMLC as required by law.
However, in response to an inquiry from Inside Asian Gaming, PAGCOR said it is primarily the effects of the pandemic that have led to the POGO industry’s decline and the cancellation of a high number of POGO licenses.
Among the primary factors cited by the gaming regulator were the complete shutdown of operations from 21 March 2020 until 31 May 2020, an exodus of POGOs’ foreign employees “in fear of discrimination when availing of health services in case they contract the COVID-19 virus”, a total ban on the entry of POGO foreign workers into the country, and limitations on the operational capacities of service providers pursuant to the imposed quarantine classifications.
This, according to PAGCOR, has seen the number of POGOs fall from a peak of 63 in 2019 to just 26 operational POGOs as of 26 April 2022.
Asked about the prospects of recovery, the regulator told IAG, “After two years since the first imposition of the lockdown and shutdown of operations, the POGO industry has not yet fully recovered.
“There is a possibility for new expansion but there is a need to create a more conducive environment by providing more practicable and adaptable treatment of our POGO Licensees in this time of crisis and to give them the opportunity to revitalize operations as well as attract new operators.”
Revenue from POGO licenses fell from Php5.28 billion (US$101 million) in 2020 to Php3.47 billion (US$67 million) in 2021, with PAGCOR estimating a further decline to Php1.67 billion (US$32 million) in 2022.