3.2m Filipinos affected by e-sabong ban

Former president Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of e-sabong operations in May.
Former president Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of e-sabong operations in May.

Seven licenced e-sabong operators had to lay off workers after the ban on operations.

The Philippines.- It’s been reported that almost 3.2 million Filipino workers have been affected by the prohibition of e-sabong. A ban was imposed by then-president Rodrigo Duterte three months ago due to pressure from senators.

The Manila Standard has reported that, “aside from the employees of licensed e-sabong operators, many agricultural and blue-collar workers from businesses like commercial farm and backyard breeders, game fowl buyers, feed producers and veterinary services were also adversely affected by the ban.”

The report added: “Online betting stalls that hired workers during the popularity of the game have found themselves unemployed since May.”

According to Ellaine Gorobao, human resources director at Lucky 8 Star Quest, one of the seven eSabong operators that were licenced by PAGCOR, the company was forced to lay off 350 employees without 30 days’ notice due to the ban.

Duterte issued the ban May and after receiving criticism for prioritising the economy over people. In March, 23 senators had signed Resolution No. 996 calling for a suspension of e-sabong after 31 people linked to the industry disappeared.

Police have since carried out operations to tackle illegal e-sabong operations and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) created a task force to monitor and coordinate enforcement action.

At its peak, the e-sabong industry reportedly generated PHP650m a month for the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation. (PAGCOR). Between January and March 15, 2022, the regulator raised at least PHP1.37bn from seven licenced e-sabong operators. It expects to lose as much as PHP5bn in revenue in 2022 due to the ban.

PAGCOR has reported an annual net income for the last year of PHP2.16bn (US$38.8m), up 2,600 per cent when compared to last year. The regulator reported income from gaming operations of PHP24.72bn (US$443m), up 67.3 per cent year-on-year. Total income was PHP26.70bn, up 68.1 per cent.

It attributed the increase in revenue to the easing of Covid-19 restrictions as many casinos in the Philippines resumed full operations in March. PAGCOR’s spending rose 62.5 per cent year-on-year to PHP10.54bn. The regulator paid an additional PHP14bn in taxes and contributions in the first half. 

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