Proposed Legislation Would Enact Complete Online Gambling Ban in the Philippines

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Posted on: September 19, 2022, 10:12h. 

Last updated on: September 19, 2022, 10:30h.

The Philippines is undergoing a pretty significant shift in its gambling industry. The latest, however, seems to be a complete step backward, as a senator is calling for a complete ban on all forms of online gambling.

Philippine offshore gaming operators
Police shut down a Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) in 2019. A senator now wants to shut down POGOs and all forms of online gambling through new legislation. (Image: GMA News Online)

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva believes there is no room for online gambling in the country and has introduced the Anti-Online Gambling Act, which would delegalize the common activity and penalize its participants.

Penalties of up to six months in jail and fines of up to PHP50,000 (US$8,710) are on the table. Villanueva believes that this will stop addiction and save lives.

Online Gambling Called Immoral

Villanueva asserts that online gambling is immoral and leads to laziness. He accuses Philippines citizens of “relying on a game of chance” instead of working.

Inarguably, the Philippines is dealing with instability in its gambling industry. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that things are out of control.

Recently, there has been speculation that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), which regulates gaming and operates casinos in the country, should have its role changed. There’s the possibility that it could be split up with the introduction of a dedicated and exclusive gaming regulator.

In addition, there is serious concern over Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO). Despite the fact that there aren’t as many as there once were, there has been a serious increase in illegal activity associated with the segment.

PAGCOR shut down two POGOs over the weekend, rescuing 140 foreign nationals at the same time. This is just the latest in a series of crimes that include 15 POGO-related kidnappings. Last year, there were 12.

Villanueva’s campaign includes a prohibition on online gambling and wagers through the internet, as well as “any form of online gambling activities.” It has support from several legislators already, including Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III.

Other politicians could soon join the push, as well. Senator Grace Paul has called out POGOs and Senator Ronald dela Rosa is drawing up a study of POGO activity. Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri is watching, waiting for the results of the study before issuing his opinion.

Say No to POGOs

The entire online gambling industry isn’t to blame for the actions of a few criminals. Making it illegal to gamble online, however, is seen by some as an extreme solution. Results of studies have shown that legalized gambling provides tax revenue benefits and allows governments to offer better consumer protections.

At the heart of the issue in the Philippines are the POGOs, which once enjoyed a flourishing market in the country. Now, however, the remaining few are eroding any chance of survivability.

China tried to pressure the Philippines into banning POGOs, but officials didn’t listen as the PHP7.18 billion (US$149.3 million) in revenue they generated was too good to ignore.

When the country tried to squeeze even more money out of the segment, however, operators balked and began to flee. That denied the Philippines of around PHP1.365 billion (US$27 million) the POGOs never paid.

Now that online gaming operators are calling plays from the same playbook as Cambodia, the Philippines is expected to crack down harder. PAGCOR, in conjunction with law enforcement agencies, is launching a hardcore initiative to dismantle any illegal operations. If Villanueva’s bill makes it to the finish line, though, there’s going to be a lot more work to do.



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