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Third POGO shut down by authorities but law firm says online operators have no plans to close voluntarily

The government of Makati City in Manila shut down a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) and arrested 51 people this week after the company was found to be operating illegally.

According to local media reports, 50 Chinese workers and one Burmese man employed by Hua Xin were taken into custody on Monday for operating without a business permit and violating community quarantine protocols.

In a statement, Mayor Abby Binay said, “The Business Permits and Licensing Office (BPLO) conducts routine inspections on business establishments to ensure compliance amid the pandemic.”

Hua Xin is at least the third POGO to be shut down by Philippine authorities for operating illegally since gaming regulator PAGCOR announced on 1 May that POGOs and their service providers were allowed to resume operations following a six-week shutdown due to COVID-19.

Such permission is dependent, though, on POGOs fulfilling certain prerequisites, including settling any outstanding tax liabilities as certified by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, updating payment of any regulatory fees, license fees, performance bonds or penalties owed to PAGCOR.

There have been reports in recent weeks that up to five POGOs have closed down permanently as a result of the regulator’s taxation crackdown.

However, a law firm representing a number of POGOs this week denied operators were closing their doors.

Speaking with the Manila Bulletin, a senior partner of the unnamed firm said some firms have instead put their tax clearance applications to the Bureau of Internal Revenue on hold as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has made operating conditions more difficult.

“This is probably the reason why many POGOs have not submitted their tax clearance petitions with the BIR,” he said.

As recently reported, 11 POGOs have been given clearance by PAGCOR to resume operations with two more awaiting a green light after submitting documentation.

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