Why should you Safely online in Vegas11?Philippines casinos catering to illicit Chinese gamblers are causing kidnappings and chaos in Manila

Dozens of scantily dressed Filipina croupiers stand in booths shuffling cards in front of a webcam, their faces softly illuminated by professional lighting.

Vegas11 Nearby, rows of Chinese nationals sit at desks chatting on cellphones with potential clients back in China.

Vegas11This is what a typical POGO – or a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator – looks like, according to descriptions provided to CNN by several gaming experts. Some are based in abandoned malls, while others are found in converted parking lots or cheap rented offices, they say.

Vegas11In the past three years, the Philippines has emerged as a major hub for online gaming, according to Filipino officials, attracting more than 100,000 Chinese nationals who work in virtual casinos catering to players back in China where gambling is illegal. Vegas11

They have been both a boon and a curse for the country. The online casinos generate tax revenue and desperately needed jobs in Manila’s crowded downtown area. But at the same time, they’ve pushed up rents and created new challenges for the Philippine National Police. In the past year, Beijing has ratcheted up pressure on Manila to shut down the industry, following its success in convincing Cambodia to move toward doing the same last year. Manila stopped taking applications for new POGO licences in August 2019, citing concerns about national security, but President Rodrigo Duterte said the next month that he would not ban the industry. “We decide to benefit the interest of my country,” he said. “I decide that we need it.” In May, Duterte allowed the POGOs to reopen, after two months of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, effectively endorsing them as essential businesses. Philippines’ casino boom Online gaming platforms allow players to gamble remotely. They sign up, choose a game and it is played over a livestream in another jurisdiction. “The games offered on these platforms are dictated by Asian tastes, where most of the demand comes from,” said Brendan Bussmann from Global Market Advisors, a Las Vegas-based consulting firm specializing in the gaming, sports, entertainment and hospitality industries. “There is a lot of baccarat, as well as some sic bo (a Chinese dice game) and blackjack,” said Bussmann. The amounts wagered tend to be low, in the range of $5 to $100, he said. Manila has become the number one hotspot worldwide for online gaming, in front of Malta, the Isle of Man and Curacao, according to David Lee, a lawyer at Taiwanese firm Lin & Partners who specializes in gaming laws. “The Philippines pioneered online casinos in the early 2000s, when Cagayan, a province to the north of the country, started awarding licenses to a handful of operators,” explains Ben Lee, the founder of IGamiX, a Macao-based consultancy firm focused on the gaming industry in Asia. “But they really took off in 2016, when President Rodrigo Duterte came into office.” Duterte handed the right to issue offshore gambling licenses to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), a government entity that operates casinos and regulates the industry. “It began to aggressively develop the industry by awarding dozens of licenses,” said lawyer David Lee. Chinese businessmen were quick to seize the opportunity and the number of POGOs mushroomed.