Nicholas: Pogos: Who is the enemy?

The Greater Good

IT SEEMS like everywhere I look these days—social media or news sources—I see or hear, “Pogo!”

Pogo? What does it mean? Who is behind this acronym we cannot seem to escape recently?

Well, “Pogo the Clown” was an American serial killer. John Wayne Glacy’s costume allowed him to remain hidden and active in the community while carrying out his crimes. Glacy was therefore known as the “Killer Clown.”

Another Pogo is an organization in America, Project on Government Oversight. It has a long list of “wins” investigating and working to expose waste, fraud, abuse, and conflicts of interest in the US Federal government.

But the Pogo all over the news in the Philippines and beyond stands for the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (Pogo). These are firms that offer online gaming services to markets outside the Philippines, primarily China but also other countries. Pogos are licensed by Pagcor (more acronyms!) in order to operate legally. According to a recent ABS-CBN article, there are 61 licensed Pogos and an estimated 200 illegally operating Pogos. As of May 2019, 138,000 foreigners were working for Pogos... here in the Philippines. Only 17 percent of Pogo workers are Filipino.

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) is a government organization directly under the President of the Philippines with a workforce of over 11,000 employees. In addition to Pogos, Pagcor operates its casinos, VIP slot clubs, oversees and regulates privately owned casinos, more than 180 bingo parlors, and e-games cafes.

Without the need to add my analysis to all the conflicting reports of the “good, bad, and the ugly” coming out of the various sides of the Pogo situation, it is adequate to provide a quote from someone who has researched gambling revenue as a source of government funding.

Julie Smith of the Australian National University, from her research, “Gambling Taxation: Public Equity in the Gambling Business” published in the Australian Economic Review, observes “an important social cost of gambling is the potential for corruption of democratic processes through close industry and government links.”

Pagcor started the processing of license applications for Pogos in 2016 after it decided not to renew the license of a local online gambling firm, PhilWeb Corporation, to boost its revenue, according to my research. Was this decision the beginning of what we see going on right now?

In closing, this is the perfect time to talk about my favorite Pogo! The comic strip character, Pogo, that I saw in the newspaper growing up. And you may have heard one of Pogo’s famous lines referenced across the years. It comes from cartoonist, Walt Kelly’s widely circulated cartoon: “We have met the enemy and he is us!”


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