You POGO If You Want To, But Don’t Say You Don’t Know

The sponsorship of a number of English Premier League football clubs by so-called POGOS–the often-illegal offshore betting sites based in The Philippines–has come under the spotlight following a police raid on the notorious sex and paedophile hub of Angeles City in the South East Asian nation, which liberated 140 enslaved foreign workers.

Philippine police rescued the workers last month from Angeles City, “a den of iniquity”, which mushroomed around a now-closed US air force base, about 50-miles (80kms) northwest of the capital Manila.

In recent years, Angeles City has grown from a cluster of go-go bars into a notorious sex destination, run by local gangsters, Yah-ba (speed) drug dealers and a network of foreign paedophiles.

Lucrative offshore, often illegal, betting sites–catering mainly to China and other neighbouring South East Asian nations—have found a fertile breeding ground in this lawless demi-monde.

Addicted to Football

A number of top English football teams, among them Chelsea (Leyu), Newcastle United (Fun88), Everton (, Leeds United (SBOTop) and Fulham (W88), have entered into lucrative sponsorship deals with the POGOS, an acronym for Philippines Offshore Gaming Operators, who exploit a massive appetite for EPL betting action in the Far East – especially in China, where all gambling is officially outlawed.

At time of publication, none of these clubs who we contacted had responded to our queries.

The Philippines National Police (PNP) rescued the 140 foreign nationals from two unnamed POGO companies.

A police spokesperson said that the workers had been “kidnapped” and “forced to work” for the organisations.

This is yet another blow to the POGO sector, which, operating in a legally opaque area, has been wracked by a string of scandals in recent years, breaching both national and international laws.

POGO Crackdown

Now the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), which ostensibly regulates gambling in the country, has warned that the entire POGO industry may be closed down if it doesn’t clean up its act.

“Our police officers are pursuing the other people involved in this and it remains an ongoing case,” updated Benjamin Abalos, a senior official of the Department of Interior and Local Government.

“[One of] the persons caught was a human resource development officer, so we believe there may be more senior individuals still at large. We are shutting down these venues as illegal establishments.”

Abalos, nevertheless, drew a distinction between “illegal” and “legal” POGOs.

“It must be said,” he conceded, “that we have no problem with legal POGOs. Indeed, we have no problem with either their policies or their employees.

“But the illegal operations give the industry a bad name.”

Philippine authorities first regulated the POGO industry in 2016.

Since then the POGOs, targeting China, Vietnam, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and other regional markets, have coined massive revenue for the island nation’s economically beleaguered economy.

In very broad terms, the legal POGO industry, employs around 35,000 people and generates in excess of four billion Filipino Pesos a year in taxes, some £60 million (US$68m/€69m).

Human Trafficking

But human trafficking in the Philippine archipelago, which is trying to shake off its unsavoury reputation for drugs and illicit sex, is a hypersensitive issue.

“If these kidnapping incidents and other illegal activities persist, it is clear that not only will we cancel the licences of POGO operators, but the entire industry may be affected by whatever decision will emanate from the national government,” warned Alejandro Tengco, the Chair and CEO of PAGCOR.

The Philippines’ new president Ferdinand Marcos Jnr., the son of the notorious dictators Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos (she of “the thousand shoes”), who ruled the nation between 1965 and 1986, has taken a close personal interest in the ongoing POGO scandal.

“The president has said this must be solved because the image of the country and of the administration is being tarnished by these illegal incidents,” stressed Tengco.

If not, the issue will only boost the powerful lobby of Filipino government senators who would like to ban all forms of online gambling in the nation of 113 million people.

A massive hit to the international iGaming industry by any measure.

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