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Pagcor defends legitimate POGOs as raid uncovers evidence of torture

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The Filipino gambling regulator’s chief has defended the country’s licensed offshore gambling sector after the latest high-profile raid of an illegal POGO operation uncovered evidence of torture.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) chairman and chief executive Alejandro H Tengco said alien hacking and scam syndicates, rather than legitimate POGOs, are the real threat to national security.

Pagcor’s chief said legitimate POGO businesses, which are licensed by Pagcor, contributed more than PHP5bn ($85m/€79m/£66m) to the regulator’s gross revenues in 2023.

Tengco spoke after the raid of a POGO facility in Porac, where more than 100 illegal workers were discovered. Many had been the victims of torture and human rights violations, according to the Presidential Anti-Organised Crime Commission (PAOCC).

“To us, the real threats are the alien hacking and scam syndicates who operate underground and they are the ones that our law enforcement agencies are trying to locate and dismantle,” said Tengco. “We are cooperating fully with the authorities in this regard.”

Pagcor defends POGO record

Pagcor defended its record in monitoring licensed operations. Tengco said it has embedded monitoring teams in the physical venues of all licensed gaming operators, including land-based casinos, to ensure compliance with the terms of their licences. He added that those found violating the provisions of their licences face fines, penalties and the loss of their licence.

“We do not need to outlaw POGOs. What we need to do is intensify anti-crime operations against suspected alien hackers, against scammers and cyber-criminals who are usually hiding in highly secured buildings and compounds,” Tengco said.

“These criminal syndicates are not engaged in offshore gaming at all and, even if they are, they are doing it illegally.

“So they are the real threat and we must go after them with everything that we have.”

Latest POGO raid

The Porac raid was the latest carried out on POGO facilities. Reports claim PHP600,000 cash, jewellery and drugs were seized inside seven buildings at the Lucky South 99 complex.

The POGO sector is becoming increasingly controversial in the Philippines, with claims that politicians and judiciary figures are under its control. Last week’s raid was delayed for several days after a judge withdrew a search warrant. There are also claims that the illicit POGO facility had been tipped off in advance of the raid. The authorities had expected to locate more than 1,000 workers.

In May 2023, the police raided the offices of gaming service provider CGC Technologies. It is accused of several serious offences including credit card fraud and human trafficking.

In June 2023, a number of state agencies joined the Clark Security Advisory Council to coordinate work combating illicit activities.

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