MANILA, Philippines: The justice ministry in Manila said it will close 175 Chinese-owned "Philippine offshore gambling operators" and deport some 40,000 Chinese workers, as part of a crackdown on the online gaming industry.
As operators capitalized on the Philippine's liberal gaming laws to target customers in China, where gambling is banned, the online industry emerged in the Philippines in 2016 and grew rapidly.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic and higher taxes forced many to operate elsewhere, Philippine offshore gambling operators employed more than 300,000 Chinese workers at their peak.
"The crackdown was triggered by reports of murder, kidnapping and other crimes committed by Chinese nationals against fellow Chinese nationals," said Justice ministry spokesperson Jose Dominic Clavano, as reported by Reuters.
Clavano added that the offshore gambling operators targeted for closure had soon-to-expire or expired operating licenses.
According to the finance ministry, the offshore gambling operators generated $122.21 million in fees alone, and larger amounts are being spent on taxes, workers' spending and office rentals.
In a statement, the Chinese embassy in Manila said Beijing supports the crackdown on offshore gambling operators-related crimes.