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Marcos continues ban on e-sabong operations

PHILIPPINE STAR/ IRISH LISING

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has ordered the continued suspension of online cockfighting operations in the Philippines, known as e-sabong, citing the need to protect public morals and safety.

“There is an urgent need to reiterate the continued suspension of all e-sabong operations nationwide, clarify the scope of existing regulations and direct relevant agencies to pursue aggressive crackdown against illegal e-sabong operations, in accordance with law,” according to an Executive Order (EO) signed for the President by Executive Secretary Lucas P. Bersamin on Dec. 28.

The order indefinitely suspends online streaming or broadcasting of live cockfights outside arenas or any premises where cockfights are being held.

It also prohibits online or offsite betting on live matches and other related activities streamed live “regardless of the location of the betting platform.”

The suspension order does not cover the operations of traditional cockfights authorized or licensed under existing laws.

The EO stressed that the state “has the paramount obligation to protect public health and morals and promote public safety and general welfare.”

The state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has been tasked to coordinate with local government units and other concerned government agencies and private entities on the EO’s implementation.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are also directed to assist PAGCOR, and take appropriate action against violators.

PAGCOR, in coordination with the DILG and PNP, should submit regular reports to the President through the Office of the Executive Secretary.

Former President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered the end of e-sabong operations in May, citing the game’s impact on family values.

The former leader initially refused to suspend e-sabong because of the revenues it generates for the government, which saw its budget deficit widen during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Philippine government’s budget deficit narrowed by 3.7% to P123.9 billion in November from the P128.7-billion deficit in the same month last year.

Revenues from online cockfighting averaged P400 million monthly last year and P640 million a month since January 2022.

E-sabong gained popularity during the pandemic as Filipino gamblers, restrained by mobility restrictions, only needed to place bets using their mobile phones.

The disappearance of at least 30 people allegedly linked to online cockfighting activities prompted a Senate investigation and public calls for its suspension.

Policy analysts earlier told BusinessWorld that stopping e-sabong operations abruptly without providing a clear strategic roadmap for affected sectors would likely force small-time operators and their workers to operate illegally.

On Wednesday, PAGCOR issued a statement warning online gamers and gamblers against patronizing illegal sites, or those without a license issued by the agency.

It noted that gambling sites not listed on PAGCOR’s website are considered illegal. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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