PAGCOR President warns against over-taxation of POGO industry

The President and COO of Philippines gaming regulator PAGCOR, Alfredo C Lim, has warned against over-taxation of the country’s burgeoning Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) for fear of scaring operators away.

His comments follows the introduction last month of a new 5% tax on the gross income of POGOs and ongoing discussions over other potential taxation measures for both operators and their employees.

This week’s G2E Asia @ the Philippines in Manila, Lim said it was important to remain balanced in how the Philippines’ online gaming industry is taxed and regulated.

“With respect to how to tax POGOs, one of the things the agencies have already discussed is how to tax POGOs without killing the industry,” he said. “It’s a very good move to balance everything – you do not kill the hen that lays the golden egg.”

Lim described the introduction of a 5% tax on income as a positive step forward for the government following months of debate on the taxation issue, as well as social issues related to POGOs.

“I think that will harmonize everything,” Lim said. “POGO is new so we will experience some birth pains so to speak, but we are trying to perfect the regulations in a way so that everything will be harmonized for the mutual satisfaction of all parties concerned.

“The POGO industry is growing and as far as I am concerned I do not want this to stop because it is bringing good to the country in terms of increasing real estate. A lot of people are happy – the owners of real estate are happy because income is being generated.”

As previously reported by IAG, PAGCOR chair Andrea Domingo revealed during her keynote speech at G2E Asia @ the Philippines on Tuesday that a moratorium on the issuance of new POGO licenses would continue into 2020 in order to give the regulator more time to fine-tune its POGO-related policies.

“The offshore gaming here is two-and-a-half years old and we have learned 90% of what we need to but the remaining 10% is so reliant on technology that we just have to learn more about it,” Domingo said

“We’ve done the computations, the policies and I think by 2020 we will have addressed 95% if not 97% of POGO including the dark side – prostitution, kidnapping, financing.

“We have a very complete understanding of what we have to do so by next year, first quarter, you will see us going into a more sophisticated way of operations in our own casinos and of regulation of the licensed operations.”

Expanding on Domingo’s comments, Lim told IAG that one area PAGCOR is currently working on are regulations aimed at protecting the rights of foreign POGO workers –estimated to number more than 70,000.

“This is one industry where there is not much negative impact on Filipinos because the players are foreigners, so it’s just a matter of the regulator seeing to it that the people who are working there are protected,” he said.

“We have a very good working relationship with the law enforcement agency to make sure that all the operators and workers are protected. The President was very emphatic on that, to prevent companies and agencies abusing workers.”

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