Philippines Tax Agency Sets Sights on Online Casinos for Chinese

(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines’ tax agency is setting its sights on more than 50 companies operating online casinos catering to Chinese punters, and their thousands of Chinese workers.

The companies in question must register with the Bureau of Internal Revenue before the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. will renew their licenses, the Department of Finance said in a statement on Sunday. The tax bureau also wants to join an inter-agency team monitoring the number of Chinese nationals working in the online gaming industry.

More than 50 companies referred to as Philippines-based offshore gaming operators, or POGOs, have set up businesses since President Rodrigo Duterte’s government began awarding licenses in 2016, triggering the migration of tens of thousands of Chinese workers. Of the more than 115,000 permits given to foreign workers from 2015 to 2017, 51,000 were issued to Chinese nationals, a labor ministry official said in November.

More than 3 million Chinese have entered the Philippines from 2016 and many of them have applied for work permits, the labor ministry official said. In November, Senator Joel Villanueva expressed alarm, saying the number of Chinese workers in the Philippines is much higher than the number of permits issued. That prompted Duterte to say days later that Filipinos must not “get rough” on this issue.

“We want to trace these Chinese nationals employed by these gaming operators,” the statement cited Bureau of Internal Revenue Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa as saying during a recent Department of Finance Executive Committee meeting. “They allowed us to join the task force because we are asking for data from Immigration and the Department of Labor and Employment on the list of these foreign nationals.”

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