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Asian Online Casinos Exploiting Workers: UN Raises Concerns

Illicit online casinos operating in various Asian countries are facing accusations of exploiting vulnerable workers who seek better opportunities, according to officials from the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office. Pia Oberoi, Senior Advisor at the UN Human Rights Office, has shed light on a disturbing trend where transnational crime groups compel individuals to engage in scams against others. This has resulted in two distinct sets of victims: those who fall prey to the scams losing substantial amounts of money, and others who are forced to perpetrate these scams in various centers located in the Southeast Asia region.

Asian Online Casinos Exploiting Workers: UN Raises Concerns

For several years, offshore gaming firms have been known to entice workers from countries like China, offering promises of attractive wages and accommodations. However, upon arrival, these workers are allegedly subjected to harsh working conditions, receiving meager pay and being forced to live in cramped quarters with multiple occupants sharing small apartments. The Philippines has been particularly implicated in these scams, with many online casino platforms targeting gamblers in countries where gambling is illegal, particularly China. Mandarin-speaking Chinese workers are enticed to the Philippines to work in call centers catering to Chinese iGaming players.

Despite China's calls for the Philippines to outlaw offshore gaming operators targeting Chinese players, the Philippines has resisted, citing the crucial tax revenue generated by these iGaming firms as essential for national security. The issue of enslaved labor in Asian online casinos extends beyond the Philippines, with Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam also reportedly hosting enslaved labor camps involved in illegal online gaming businesses.


The UN emphasizes that the problem escalated after the COVID-19 pandemic, with the closure of land-based casinos leading to an increased reliance on illegal online platforms. The UN's August briefing on the situation highlighted that the Philippines' creation of its Offshore Gambling Operator (POGO) system in 2016 played a significant role. POGO hubs were established in the country's "freeports" and "special economic zones," where businesses often operate immune from certain laws. The lack of decent work opportunities in many countries, coupled with the economic impact of the pandemic, provided traffickers with opportunities to fraudulently recruit people into criminal operations, according to the UN.

The UN is urging governments to provide support and assistance to trafficked individuals and discouraging punitive measures against those working for illegal gambling operations. The crisis of enslaved labor in Asian online casinos has gained renewed attention, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the urgent need for international cooperation to address this issue and protect vulnerable individuals.


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