Inside a Chinese gambling entity: What happens, who works, how?
The sudden surge of offshore gambling firms during Duterte is not surprising.
In the 1980s, the widespread inefficiency of and rent-seeking in Philippine government-owned and controlled corporations (GOOCs) limited state investment on public goods that could have reduced the cost of investing, such as energy, transportation, and telecommunications.
For foreign investors, these decisions made investing in manufacturing and other productive sectors costlier in the Philippines than that of other comparable developing countries.
To deal with these constraints, the Philippine government instituted new laws to attract service sector Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) investments in the early 2000s. BPOs expediently began to employ millions of Filipinos, contribute billions of dollars to revenues, and generate forward-backward linkages across sectors.
Successful foreign investments from other countries also concentrate their capital in specific sectors that do not compete with domestic businesses or provide crucial external markets to domestic businesses, such as the extractive sector for Canadians and Australians, or chip assembly for the Japanese.
Since the Duterte administration, Philippines has become the predominant home for Chinese offshore gambling investments because of cheap real estate, a booming service sector, and the state’s autonomy from Beijing.
Offshore gambling originated during Joseph Estrada’s brief term as president, reemerged throughout the Benigno S. Aquino III presidency, and now has surged since Rodrigo R. Duterte took power.
At present, the offshore gambling industry in the Philippines has a conservative estimate of 100,000 people as its workforce. About 90 percent of this workforce are mainland Chinese. Some common assumptions about these Chinese workers are that they are stealing jobs from Filipinos while taking advantage of the country’s social services, and that they lack manners.
In November 2018, my research assistant and I had a chance to sit down and talk with a Chinese migrant worker at the Mall of Asia. The worker is part of the customer service section in an offshore gambling outfit. The interview was done in Chinese and English. The following are excerpts from that conversation.