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Philippines to keep chasing POGOs despite reports of closures

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his speech during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ozamiz Airport Modernization Project in Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental on November 28, 2018. TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

The Philippine government says it won’t be easing up on its pursuit of outstanding taxes from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) despite revelations this week that some had shut down and left the country.

According to local media reports, two licensed POGO operators and several service providers have closed operations due to stringent tax rules imposed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and statements from gaming regulator PAGCOR that no POGO would be allowed to resume post-COVID until all liabilities were paid.

PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Andrea Domingo named Suncity Group and Don Tencess Asian Solutions as the two POGOs to have left, although Suncity denied this was the case when contacted by Inside Asian Gaming.

“Suncity Group spares no effort to develop itself as a global integrated VIP entertainment conglomerate. The junket business in Manila is definitely important to us and we can’t find any reason to leave Manila at this particular moment,” the company said.

“In regards to the comment provided by Mdm Andrea Domingo, we think she is referring to telebetting services, which has nothing to do with the junket business that Suncity Group operates in Manila.

“We will continue to develop our VIP entertainment business in licensed gaming operators in Manila, and provide seamless VIP services to our guests.”

Nevertheless, authorities on Wednesday insisted they will continue to crack down on POGOs.

“I think Secretary Dominguez will not budge from the position that they need to pay all their taxes, including the franchise tax,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, referencing Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

“Now, although the President has said we need all the resources, all the revenues that we can derive from all, including POGO operations to fund Covid-19 response of the government, I think the bottom line is they have to settle their tax obligations.”

Dominguez said earlier this week that the government would continue to chase money owed from POGO operators and service providers even if they have chosen to leave the Philippines.

PAGCOR recently revealed it had cleared 11 POGOs to resume operations.

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