July 12, 2024

Mikayla Macfarlane

Serving technology better

Philippines concerned that online casinos could be China-linked ‘Trojan horses’

2 min read
AI image of Philippines betting operator / Philippines concerned that online casinos could be China-linked trojan horse.

Authorities in the Philippines are contemplating the future of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) after recent raids uncovered links to criminality as well as China-related national security concerns.

Experts have warned that the industry, which supplies casino betting as well as card games and other online offerings, could pose a ‘Trojan horse’ threat to the nation which needs to be addressed immediately. The online gambling service is set up in the Philippines for customers in other jurisdictions, particularly China given that its ruling Communist Party has outlawed gambling on the mainland.

As reported by Nikkei, the murky setup is a tangled web as uncovered by Filipino authorities when raids in Luzon uncovered illegal employment, kidnapping, and torture linked to POGOs, as well as the involvement of foreign criminal syndicates.

The finding of a Chinese army uniform sparked national security fears, leading to public controversy, but this has been secondary to the spy fears emanating from the location of some Chinese casinos and POGO facilities such as those near the Philippine National Police headquarters in Quezon City, the Air Force headquarters in Pasay City, the Army headquarters in Taguig City, and the Navy headquarters in Manila. 

Perimeter for espionage

Chester Cabalza, President and Founder of International Development and Security Cooperation (IDSC), told the First Post, “The POGOs are deemed as a Trojan horse that can stage a surprise attack in the Philippines for their unrestricted warfare.”

He added, “The key strategic locations of POGOs are also sensitive to our national security since it becomes a perimeter for espionage.”

The industry thrived during the previous Duterte administration in the Philippines with the economic benefit welcomed, but now many are saying the negatives outweigh any boost to the economy, with much more at risk.

Geopolitical tensions with China over the South China Sea add a further layer of sensitivity to security concerns, with Defense Minister Gilberto Teodoro Jr. warning that criminal syndicates posing as online casinos “operating out of our base” should be stopped as their activities “weaken our financial standing, our country ratings, and corrupt our society.”

Eduardo Ano, a National Security Advisor in the Philippines told Nikkei Asia that the situation “Is not yet a national security threat at the moment, but a national security concern,” calling for urgent action by the authorities and all illegal POGOs to be shut down.

It was reported the country collected 5.1 billion pesos ($86 million) from licensed POGO operations in 2023.


Image credit: Via Ideogram

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