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Philippine City of Valenzuela Bans POGOs Amidst Human Trafficking Concerns

Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) are facing increased scrutiny and restrictions in the country due to allegations of widespread human trafficking and other crimes.

Philippine City of Valenzuela Bans POGOs Amidst Human Trafficking Concerns

Following Pasig's ban on POGOs last year, the city of Valenzuela has now also prohibited their operations. Mayor Wes Gatchalian made the announcement, aiming to preempt any negative impact from POGOs on the city. He expressed concerns about financial crimes, intimidation, and human trafficking associated with the industry.

In addition to POGOs, the ban in Valenzuela extends to small-town lotteries (STL), eSabong (online cockfighting), online poker, and all online activities. Existing STLs will be allowed to continue operating, but no new licenses will be issued for the next five years. Online cockfighting, which was already banned at the national level, faces a city-level prohibition as well. Since there were no licensed online poker sites in the city, the impact of the ban on this sector is minimal.

Mayor Gatchalian's stance aligns with a broader federal effort to ban all forms of online gambling in the Philippines. The negative consequences of POGOs have contributed to the push for stricter regulations. Gatchalian believes that law enforcement agencies should prioritize more pressing issues instead of dedicating significant resources to POGO-related investigations.

Violators of Valenzuela's new laws will face fines and possible imprisonment. Mayor Gatchalian intends to enforce penalties ranging from PHP100,000 to 500,000 (US$1,810 to $9,050) and potential jail terms of up to one year.

At the national level, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senators Grace Poe, Risa Hontiveros, and Sherwin Gatchalian are working to enforce a complete ban on all POGO activities. Recent raids on POGO-related companies, such as Xinchuang Network Technology, accused of involvement in a human trafficking scheme, have further exposed the criminal element within the industry. Senator Gatchalian referred to statistics from the National Bureau of Investigation, revealing that 58% of crimes associated with POGOs involve human trafficking. He considers POGOs a threat to the country's national security and supports stricter regulations.

As the scrutiny intensifies and criminal activities associated with POGOs come to light, the industry in the Philippines faces growing challenges and calls for its complete eradication.


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