Philippine Legislators Take Aim at Online Casino Operators in Effort to Combat Human Trafficking

This legislative effort signifies the Philippines’ commitment to protecting its citizens’ rights and dignity. By concentrating on online casino operators, lawmakers are sending a clear message to traffickers: their days of exploiting vulnerable individuals in the digital realm are numbered.

Home » Philippine Legislators Take Aim at Online Casino Operators in Effort to Combat Human Trafficking

Philippine Crackdown on Offshore Gaming

PASAY, PHILIPPINES — In a bid to combat the growing network of cryptocurrency scams and human trafficking associated with it, lawmakers in the Philippines have turned their attention to the country’s offshore gaming operators, known as POGOs, and their regulatory bodies.

During a recent inquiry, the Philippine Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality focused on a raid that took place in early May at an accredited POGO site located just a few hours’ drive from the capital, Manila. This operation led to the rescue of over a thousand human trafficking victims from various Asian countries.

Senator Gatchalian Condemns POGO-Linked Scams



Senators at the hearing strongly criticized officials from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), the regulatory body overseeing online casinos in the country.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian expressed concern, saying, “This brings international shame to us. The Philippines is becoming a scam hub. POGOs are being used as fronts for scams and human trafficking because PAGCOR is corrupt and not doing its job.”

The victims involved in this case were trafficked from 11 different Asian countries. One victim, Jason, whose real identity and nationality were withheld for safety reasons, revealed that he came to the Philippines expecting a legitimate marketing job but was coerced into carrying out cryptocurrency scams on American and Canadian men, deceiving them into thinking he was a woman.

After testifying before the Senate committee, Jason spoke to VOA, explaining that when PAGCOR inspectors visited the POGO site once a week, half of the trafficking victims would hide in the dormitory, keeping the shades closed and the doors locked.

Senator Hontiveros Pushes Ban on POGOs

Senator Risa Hontiveros, the committee’s chair, is advocating for a ban on POGOs, stating, “POGOs provide that legal layer to these hubs, and the operations of these hubs remain beyond regulatory scrutiny. If POGOs are allowed to continue business as usual, the crypto-scams and human trafficking operations will also grow at a frightening rate our government will never be able to overtake.”

During the hearing, PAGCOR officials acknowledged issues with corruption and admitted the need for enhanced regulations and monitoring. PAGCOR also revealed that it had revoked the accreditation of the POGO site that was raided.

Asia’s Cryptocurrency Scams Fuel Human Trafficking

cryptocurrency scams

Cryptocurrency Scams

Cryptocurrency scams linked to human trafficking networks have become a recurring problem across Asia, with victims trafficked from various countries to work in “fraud factories” in places like Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and the Philippines. In these facilities, trafficking victims are compelled to participate in scams, often working long hours.

Non-Government Organizations researching this issue estimate that over 100,000 people might be trapped in “fraud factories” throughout the region. Victims are typically educated, white-collar workers with social media skills, some of whom lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and are desperate for employment.

According to the Global Anti-Scam Organization, there is significant demand for scammers who can speak English and/or Chinese, as these are widely spoken languages. Victims are often enticed through social media posts promising high-paying jobs.

Escaped Victims Reveal Mental Abuse

Some victims who manage to escape or are rescued report that disobedience could result in torture or even death. However, Jason mentioned that there was no physical abuse at his site, only mental abuse.

“The worst case is going into the detention room,” he stated, explaining that anyone sent there could spend several days in a dark room with minimal food.

Jason further disclosed that when victims completed their typically six-month contracts and expressed a desire to return home, their supervisors would lie, claiming they hadn’t been there long enough. Victims were told they had to pay fees amounting to thousands of dollars, an exorbitant sum for many in that part of the world, if they wanted to leave.

“The company will do anything necessary to keep us,” Jason stated, noting that some victims did manage to return home because their families paid the extortion demands.


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