Govt could lose billions if e-sabong operations suspended — Duterte

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 16) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said the government stands to lose billions of pesos if e-sabong or online cockfight operations are stopped.

“Hindi muna ako nagre-act agad [I did not immediately react] because of the income the government derives from allowing this kind of game to go online,” said Duterte in his taped weekly public address.

“Ang appeal ko lang sa congressmen, huwag na lang ninyong anuhin 'yan. Kumikita 'yan. Walang nakikinabang diyan except Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation),” he added.

[Translation: My appeal to congressmen, just don’t mind it. It’s generating income. No one else if benefiting from it except Pagcor.]

Duterte made the statement after 23 senators earlier transmitted a resolution to Malacañang and Pagcor seeking to suspend e-sabong amid the ongoing probe into the disappearance of more than 30 cockfight aficionados.

“Sayang, eh. Wala tayong pera, we are short of money. Kaya ako pumayag kahit yung POGO,” Duterte said.

[Translation: It would be a waste. We don’t have funds, we are short of money. That’s why I even allowed POGOs to operate.]

Pagcor generated ₱3.69 billion from eight licensed e-sabong operators from April to December 2021. Meanwhile, ₱1.37 billion was collected from seven e-sabong licensees from January to March 15 this year.

Duterte said he would leave it to Pagcor to regulate e-sabong operations in the country.

“Ang interes lang talaga ng gobyerno dito ay ‘yung pera. Makikinabang ang gobyerno pero ang yayaman dito ay ‘yung mga operators [The only interest of the government here is the money. The government will benefit from this, but it will be the operators who will get rich]. That is why there is a need for a regulator on this particular game. We need a regulator somewhere, a representative from PAGCOR,” he said.

Pagcor chairperson Andrea Domingo said they are currently fine-tuning policies on e-sabong, including requiring players to take a screenshot of their mobile gadget while playing, a review of minimum buying and bet limits, the implementation of banning mechanisms, and the installation of CCTV cameras near cockpit arenas.

However, Pagcor said the suspension of e-sabong would not be enough to stop the popular online game and would only lead to more illegal e-sabong activities.

“Hindi po siguro enough na suspendehin lamang ng Pagcor ang mga lisensya sapagkat magpapatuloy po ito at unregulated. Kung gusto po natin suspendehin natin ito, dapat sabihan ang mga mayor na huwag magbigay ng lisensya sa anumang magla-live stream o maglalagay ng camera sa traditional sabong,” said Domingo.

[Translation: It is not enough to simply suspend their licenses because it would still continue to operate unregulated. If we want to suspend it, mayors should be ordered not to issue licenses to anyone who will livestream or install cameras in traditional cockfight arenas.]