Pogo: The new game in town

THERE’S a new business in town, and even some senators and congressmen are ignorant how it is being run. This is the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operation. Pogo for short. It has increased heftily the revenues of Philippine Amusement And Gaming Operation (Pagcor). The added income sourced from these Pogo operations is a cool P600 million a month. And there are only more than 20 persons from PAGCOR overseeing the operations. Simply put it is modern gambling in the digital age. The platforms are in our country and the bettors are mostly in China. No wonder there are so many Chinese workers today that has resulted into construction of more tall buildings in Metro Manila and elsewhere just to accommodate the Pogo operations. And if President Duterte will heed the plea of the Beijing government to effect their closure it will shake our own banking system because of the loan exposure of banks. Pogos are not only conducted here but also in many countries abroad including nations in Europe.

Just like in other areas, gambling also evolved. Pagcor has its hands full now. Former Pampanga Congresswoman Andrea ‘Didi’ Domingo is at the helm and navigating the agency to its highest earning capacity should elicit applauses. Thanks to Pogo, for one. ( This despite what I’ve heard that she and Atty. Alfredo Lim, PAGCOR president who is a fraternity brod of President Duterte are not compatible in the workplace). This aside. I firmly believe that Pagcor’s golden age was when Chairman Alice Reyes and retired Air Force General Romeo David worked in tandem.

Retro: My first trip to the United States of America in late 1979 was highlighted by a two night stay in Las Vegas. I strolled at the famous 'the Strip' and I walked in and out of the casinos. Ah! The good life, if you have the money to spend. The casinos are money factories.

In 1979, the late Henry Sy Sr. was not yet in banking, retail, power and casino business. His first big mall debuted in 1982, the SM NORTH. Now his family is involved with City of Dreams, one of the biggest casino in operations today in this country. From one who migrated into the country and started selling shoes in a small store in Carriedo street in Sta. Cruz district in Manila in the fifties he was included among the 100 richest persons in the world. That's quite a feat. Now the Sy siblings are still high on the Forbes chart.

Casino business is good and a profitable business. The Sys started in partnership with Kerry Packer of Australia and Lawrence Ho of Macao and operates the City of Dreams. I made a visit once and I was impressed. Enrique 'Ricky' Razon Jr. who is in port terminal operation ventured also in casino business and his Solaire casino is raking in the money from the high rollers of Asian gamblers. According to the papers, he is not yet a senior citizen but made the list in Forbes richest men in the world. There's another big one.

Looking back, sometime in the sixties, the casinos in this country were lined along the stretch of Roxas Boulevard. I worked as public relations and liaison man of the late Nicanor 'Junior' De Guzman of Nueva Ecija. He was operating several casinos together with his brother-in-law Rudy Ilustre some of which I remember like the Ambassador, Stardust, Chrysantemum and La Sirena. The Magdaluyos, Riveros and few more others came up with their own establishments only to be closed down when President Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed martial law in September 1972.

There were also some operations in the provinces during those years. Lawyer Rogelio Z. Bangsil of Magalang studied law and passed the bar but found that the legal profession was not really for him. He started his casino operation in Olongapo City in the late sixties in partnership with the Escalonas. He operated three casinos there, the Rovisa, Gold Nugget and the Big C.

I was in my early twenties when he hired me as a his general manager in the operation of his Marisol Manor Hotel and Casino which was located in a secluded area in the Marisol subdivision. I want to think till today that I have the bragging right that we were able to beat the three other casinos in the city in terms of patronage. These were the Lazatin-run Kontiki casino along the Macarthur Highway, The Oasis casino operated by the late Ed Antonio and the Skyline Casino owned by the late Rod Feliciano. They were unregulated by government, unlike today Pagcor issues guidelines.


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