Home Gambling Industry E-sabong bites the dust in the Philippines

E-sabong bites the dust in the Philippines

04 May 2022
3 min. read

A roster running somewhere, seemingly determined.

In a surprise reversal of public sentiment, e-sabong has been discontinued in the Philippines a year after it was introduced with a presidential decree. President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday that there was growing evidence that made it hard to justify the running of the operation, even though e-sabong has contributed $12 million in tax revenue over the past year of operation.

Citing increased crime associated with the regulation of the activity, Duterte has gone to his default position that gambling is generally bad. The president may be emboldened by the fact that PAGCOR, the Philippines’ gambling regulator, has told him to expect a return of tourists, travel, and the commercial gambling sector.

Meanwhile, PAGCOR has issued new licenses to online brands that wish to operate in the industry, providing ample additional funds for the central government and treasury. In the year that e-sabong was online, though, there have been at least 36 kidnappings and disappearances now directly connected to people visiting e-sabong venues.

This prompted an investigation by the National Police, which has come mostly empty-handed, apart from identifying corrupt police officers who have been helping e-sabong criminals do the kidnappings.

While no motive was given in any of the cases concerning the missing individuals, their disappearances have been linked to the activity. A month ago, Duterte said that he would not consider banning the activity, but that he had urged the authorities to act quickly. This change of opinion follows the man’s somewhat populistic views on running the country.

According to public opinion, at least 62% of the population opposes e-sabong and disapproves of the legalization of such activities in the Philippines, which may have swayed the president to make a decision that cast him in good light.

Crime has spread despite how selective PAGCOR has been about awarding licenses. The gaming regulator has gone to considerable lengths to research the purveyors of e-sabong contests and revenue surely followed. At the time when PAGCOR was legalizing the industry, the watchdog argued that unless a central body stepped in to regulate it, illegal contests and crime will continue to proliferate.

Surprisingly, the legalization has had the reverse effect, largely attributed to how big the country is, the lack of proper enforcement of rules and corruption in law enforcement. The detrimental effects that PAGCOR warned about when issuing e-sabong licenses may finally take hold of the country as rogue e-sabong betting operations are unlikely to comply with the presidential order.

Image credit:Unsplash.com

04 May 2022
3 min. read