Philippines faces POGO sticking pointMuhammad Cohen

Philippines faces POGO sticking pointMuhammad Cohen

No sunset in sight for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) targeting mainland China. (Photo by Muhammad Cohen)

In 2019, 1.7 million Chinese tourists came to the Philippines, spending an estimated US$2.3 billion dollars. China Outbound Tourism Research Institute CEO Wolfgang Arlt estimates nearly 1.2 million Chinese travelers will visit the archipelago this year, heavily back loaded toward the second half. That’s about two-thirds of the 2019 total of 1.74 million.

Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) continue targeting mainland China, and it may cost the island nation couple pay a steep price. China claims it has a secret travel blacklist for countries that encourage its citizens to gamble, and a Philippine senator says his country is on the list. If that’s true, the cost of POGOs would be exorbitant.

On spending, Arlt says, “Nobody has a reliable way for a forecast.” China’s rich saw a 10% wealth decline during the pandemic, but pent up demand could overcome that loss, at least temporarily. Conservatively, Chinese travelers would spend US$1.3 billion in the Philippines this year, unless the blacklist stops them from visiting. Weigh that against the estimated US$80 million in government revenue and plus reported illegal activities that POGOs generate.

Former US diplomat and broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is Asia editor at largefor Clarion’s iGaming Business, a longtime contributor to Forbes, columnist for Asia Times and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about TV news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, archive and more at; follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MuhammadCohen and LinkedIn.

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