The Philippines decided to issue online gambling licenses in 2016 with the aim on developing a new income stream in the country after the government decided to shutdown the e-bingo industry in the country. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) decided to issue a limited number of online gambling licenses as a trial phase and based on the success and performance of the industry, would make a decision on awarding a second round of online gambling licenses.
Although the government has given online gambling the green light, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is not very thrilled to see online gambling flourishing in its accredited buildings. Office space in the Philippines, especially in Metro Manila is rented out at premium prices and it appears that online gambling operators are quickly staking their claim. A report from Leechiu Property Consultants (LPC) highlighted the fact that nearly 481,412 square meters, which is around 39 percent of office space in Metro Manila belong to PEZA accredited facilities.
The LPC report showed that the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry was number one on the list in renting office spaces, taking up about 38 percent of the market and in second place was the online gambling industry. Charito Plaza, the director general of PEZA has been very outspoken about her stance on the online gambling industry and has made it clear that she does not want any online gambling operations inside PEZA buildings throughout the country.
Plaza stated that as of now more than 100 online gambling operations in Metro Manila and the majority of them were taking place within PEZA accredited facilities. Plaza stated that most of these online gambling operators had obtained their gaming licenses from either Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (APECO) or the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA). She would go on to say that the board of directors had reached a consensus on the issue and concluded that even if the licenses were issued by PAGCOR, these online gambling operators would still not be allowed to run operations within PEZA accredited facilities.
Plaza encouraged building owners of PEZA accredited buildings to stop renting out their premises to online gambling operators since PEZA will no longer allow online gambling operations within their accredited facilities. Plaza also stated that building owners who ignored the warning and rented out their premises would receive a notice from PEZA and then have their accreditation cancelled.
One of the main reasons why PEZA has adopted a tough stance on online gambling operators is because in recent months there has been a lot of controversy and scandal surrounding the online gambling industry in the Philippines. Towards the end of 2016, more than 1,300 Chinese nationals were arrested at an online casino in Clark, Pampanga that Macau gambling tycoon Jack Lam was operating. The Chinese nationals were helping to run the online gambling operation which was located within stated owned economic zones of Authority of Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB) and Clark Development Corporation (CDC).
Earlier this month, authorities arrested 55 Chinese nationals who were alleged to be involved in cyber fraud and underground online gambling operations. They were running these operations in the Freeport Area of Bataan. AFAB has tried to distance itself from the scandal by claiming that when these 55 Chinese nationals entered the country, they had no criminal record. However, these on-going scandals and arrests that have links with the online gambling industry is why PEZA is looking to cut all ties with the online gambling industry in the Philippines.
Plaza has stated that even technical support for online gambling operators will not be allowed in PEZA accredited buildings. This crackdown by PEZA could hurt online gambling operators in a number of countries as many of these foreign operators have set up their support team in the Philippines because the cost of labor is economical and a large number of Filipinos have a good grasp of the English language.
PEZA had been accused in 2016 of having ties to the online gambling industry and there have been allegations that PEZA officials had been bribed to assist in the issuing of online gambling licenses. Those allegations were denounced by PEZA and its firm stance on the online gambling industry in 2017 is a show of proof that it wants no ties with the online gambling industry.

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