Philippines Recognizes Need for Action But Still Loves E-Sabong

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte knows that a line must be drawn – he just isn’t entirely sure if it should come at the expense of tax revenue. The e-sabong popularity in his country has nevertheless grown over the past two years but so have multiple reports that authorities may be overlooking some serious criminal offenses.

E-Sabong Continues to Be a Hot Topic

Among those are disappearances and most recently, a woman who pawned her baby to cover an e-sabong debt. In light of these events, President Duterte has called on authorities, including the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation, to launch an investigation into the disappearances of 31 people who attended e-sabong events. He tasked the country’s gaming company, PAGCOR, to collaborate with law enforcement as well.

But Duterte does not want to take the activity down, even though he has taken numerous steps to limit gambling in his country. A full ban, though, would be unwise Duterte told Inquirer, a media outlet based in the Philippines. This shows pragmatism and a realization of the fact that e-sabong will continue to exist with or without the president’s blessing.

What he may do, though, is create the conditions that would ensure that the activity is safe for all participants. He even said so in the interview:

“For me, I did not immediately react and push for the suspension because of the income that the government derives from allowing these kinds of games to go online. The problem is you can’t control the bettors.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

The activity is estimated to be generating a hefty penny for the state coffers at a time when revenue is needed.

Philippines Keen on Keeping the Industry Running

PAGCOR decided to go ahead and legalize e-sabong contests last May in a bid to clamp down on underhand betting and also bring additional revenue.

The activity is reportedly bringing as much as $150 million to the country’s tax man and this is one of the most powerful arguments for keeping it going.

E-sabong though has seen a proliferation of many unlicensed websites that are not obligated to pay tax nor do they intend to. The Philippines has a long way to go until it has completely cleaned up its e-sabong industry and reaped the biggest economic benefits from regulating it in the first place.