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The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation has stated it has been left with no choice but to pursue legal action against 33 offshore gaming licensees due to unpaid fees.

It is noted by the regulator that those in question, including some that it said have now left the country, have unpaid licence fees that amount to P2.02bn (£27.86m).

According to Chair and CEO Alejandro Tengco, PAGCOR records highlight that the operators, who were given licences during a previous administration, have not paid their fees for over a year. This contravenes section 4.C of the Offshore Gaming Regulatory Manual.

It is added that the offshore gaming operators that are falling foul have not responded to repeated appeals by management regarding payment, which has left the legal route as the only option open for the regulator. 

Despite acknowledging that five of the operators have already closed shop, Tengco warned that a refusal to abide by Philippine laws and to pay the government what is due shall be dealt with.

During a congressional hearing earlier this week, the PAGCOR chief also revealed that due to some offshore gaming operators that were granted licences during the previous administration closing down during the pandemic, billions of pesos in unpaid dues are now unable to be collected.

“Because of this situation, we are duty-bound to take a legal course of action. We are now in the process of gathering pertinent information to file appropriate cases against them,” he said.

Adding: “PAGCOR will continue to ensure that all our regulated gaming entities – including offshore gaming operators and service providers – will abide by our regulatory policies, including proper payment of fees and taxes.”

Earlier in the month, PAGCOR revealed a fresh regulatory framework that is designed to tackle offshore gaming licensees.

The inter agency effort is charged with addressing illegal activities being linked to offshore gaming operations in the country, becoming the latest such attempt to crackdown on such activity.

This became the latest initiative to tackle illegal gambling activities in the region, with PAGCOR having been working with government and law enforcement agencies to set up offices inside an accredited hub.

Further reforms include imposing stricter sanctions on licensees and service providers found to be engaged in criminal activities, heightening inspection and compliance protocols, submitting reports to enforcement agencies, and adopting a stricter implementation of regulations.

In addition to also undertaking a land-based clampdown, PAGCOR has detailed plans to launch an online casino, titled Casino Filipino, by the first quarter of next year.