E-sabong shutdown has affected Philippine financial institutions

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.

Banking institutions say e-sabong revenues were handled by accredited banks.

The Philippines.- Financial institutions claim the Philippines has lost an estimated PHP5bn of potential revenue for the year due to the ban on e-sabong operations. Since gaming centres needed to remit their portion of revenue to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, money from e-sabong operations was usually handled through accredited banks such as the Philippine Business Bank.

Roland Avante, president of the Philippine Business Bank, told the Manila Bulletin: “We are running an economy that needs all the funding that it can get especially now that we are still existing amid the pandemic and we all know that the funds needed by the government to be able to sustain its support to the people.”

He said that while the bank was prepared for the withdrawal of a major client, the shutdown of a $1bn industry has affected the financial institution. Avante argued that the e-sabong industry should be given a second chance and that the issues surrounding operators need to be discussed in a broader context due to the wider ecosystem of banks, operators, and bettors.

In August, The Manila Standard reported that almost 3.2 million Filipino workers had been affected by the prohibition of e-sabong. It said 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.”

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

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.

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