Philippine authorities plan to launch a new crackdown on gambling operators who illegally employ foreign nationals in casinos and online gambling services.
This weekend, Philippine media reported that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) had announced the formation of a new interagency task force to ensure that all foreigners working in the country’s casinos and for locally licensed online gambling operators have valid work permits. The new task force is expected to commence activities this month.
DOLE plans to partner with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to target the regulator’s Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) licensees. All POGO operations in Manila, as well as the special economic zones in the Clark Freeport and Subic Bay, will be subject to inspections to determine their staff’s eligibility to work in the Philippines.
The Philippine Star quoted Bureau of Local Employment director Dominque Tutay saying all POGO-employed foreigners will be checked to see if they have valid Alien Employment Permits (AEP). Tutay said PAGCOR had been “very cooperative” with the probes into its POGO licensees’ operations.
Since 2015, the Philippines has issued around 116k AEPs, nearly half of which went to Chinese nationals. However, in September, Senator Franklin Drilon claimed that industry insiders had told him that gambling operators were employing around 400k foreign nationals in Manila alone.
In 2016, the Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) rounded up over 1,300 Chinese nationals working at an illegal online gambling operation in the Clark Freeport. Jimei Group founder Jack Lam, who ran the online operation, was reportedly extorted by senior BI officials to secure the arrested workers’ release.
Philippine law prohibits foreign-owned or -sponsored business projects from hiring more than 20% of their total workforce from overseas, and foreign nationals can only be hired for jobs that local workers either can’t or won’t do.
Most Philippines-based online gambling operators are predominantly China-facing and thus require staff that can speak Mandarin. Tutay suggested that local online gambling licensees should be required to train Filipino workers to conduct business in Mandarin as part of the licensees’ “corporate social responsibility.”
DOLE is also considering eliminating other government departments’ ability to issue special work permits for foreign nationals in the local gaming industry. The ultimate aim is to make DOLE the sole authority for issuing POGO work permits.