Chinese Offshore Gaming Operators Driving Online Growth in The Philippines

Chinese Gambling Firms Leasing Office Space in The Philippinesing

The Philippines is one of just a few Asian countries to offer legalized online gambling, with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) having issued its first iGaming license to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in 2016. Business has boomed since, with that number having now grown to 57 license holders, and the online gambling industry having generated $84 million in revenue last year, marking a 14 percent improvement from 2016.

Chinese Players Driving Growth

Chinese gamblers are seen as valuable customers by casinos and gambling operators around the world from the U.S to Australia. The Philippines is no exception, and just as the country’s land-based casinos have tried to lure Chinese patrons to their establishments, it would appear that its iGaming industry has been following a similar approach.

POGOs Recruiting Chinese Workers

This can be seen by the fact that POGOs have been concentrating their efforts on recruiting Chinese workers to help attract Chinese gamblers to their sites. A large number of them are hired as live dealers or customer support agents, while others are tasked with scouring Chinese social networking sites in order to entice Chinese players to their websites.

One such online gambling company is Oriental Game, which has 600 employees based at its headquarter in Makati City in the Philippines. Currently, 70 percent of the firm’s employees hail from the Philippines, but with an increasing proportion of Chinese staff now being recruited to target Chinese gamblers, who presently account for around half its overall business. The rest of its revenues come from other Asian markets, including Vietnam, Taiwan, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Commenting upon the future ambitions of Oriental Game, the company’s digital marketing supervisor, Jeffrey Suck, explains:

“Our main target is China. That’s why you can see all the brochures we have are all in Chinese. The goal is, in 2020, we want to be No 1 in Asia.”

Chinese Workers Stealing Jobs?

In the meantime, the presence of an increasing number of Chinese workers in the country has stirred up resentment among local Filipinos, who view them as stealing jobs that might otherwise have gone to them. This is exasperated by the fact they are not required to obtain an alien employment permit (AEP), but instead are allowed to arrive in the country on tourist visas before applying for special work permits.

The enticing packages they are then offered includes a starting monthly wages of around $1,458, free accommodation, five meals a day, 15 days annual leave, as well as a return flight ticket.

Filipinos have also blamed Chinese gambling companies for a huge increase in the price of office space rentals and properties in the country. According to Monique Cornelio Pronove from Manila property consultancy firm Pronove Tai, a massive 40 percent of all office space in Makati is being rented by gambling firms, with similarly high figures also seen in Laguna (38%), Cebu (48%), and Cavite (21%). Apparently, business is so good that the POGOs haven’t even been bothered to negotiate rents with the landlord, and as Cornelio Pronove explains, while increasing rentals and capital values is good for the the owner and investors, “it’s not good for other occupiers.”

Continued Online Growth Expected

Barring the Chinese government legalizing gambling operations in China outside of just Macau, online gambling platforms in The Philippines are expected to continue growing going forward. While China and the Philippines have been looking to forge stronger economical bonds in recent years, the Philippines government will nonetheless be keen to assure its voters that providing job opportunities to Filipinos remains a priority for them, and that preferential treatment is not being given to Chinese workers in particular. As Professor Maria Ela Atienza, from the political science department at the University of the Philippines Diliman, explains:

“Filipinos fear that Chinese workers might be stealing jobs from them when Filipinos themselves want jobs. This also violates Philippine labour law, which states that as long as there are qualified Filipinos applying for certain jobs, they should be hired. This may lead to an increase in racist sentiments directed against the Chinese that can affect even relations among Filipinos.”