Senate leader presents bill to ban online gambling in the Philippines

The bill aims to ban all online gaming, including POGOs and PIGOs.
The bill aims to ban all online gaming, including POGOs and PIGOs.

The senator argues that the consequences of online gambling are too severe to be ignored.

The Philippines.- Senate majority leader Joel Villanueva has introduced Senate Bill 1281 seeking to ban all types of online gaming in the Philippines, including POGOs and PIGOs (offshore and domestic betting and wagering).

Villanueva argued that “the consequences of gambling and online gambling are too serious to ignore. The cost of gambling is no longer limited to the loss of money, but extends to the loss of value and life.”

He also noted the criminal activity surrounding e-Sabong earlier this year, and said that “these situations also show that the social costs of gambling are too high: bankruptcy, family breakdown, criminal activity, etc.”

If the law is passed, anyone who engages in online gambling could face jail time and a fine of up to PHP500,000 (US$8,700).

The bill has received the support of Aquilino Pimentel III, a senate minority leader. According to Asian Gaming Brief, Pimentel III said: “It will be a bipartisan measure. We can’t afford to dilly-dally on banning POGOs when the nation’s moral fibre and peace and order are on the line. You are the majority. Get your act together. If you say ‘stop POGO,’ we will support you.”

The project will see intense debate since the revenue the state obtains from online gambling are important for the country. Nonetheless, the president of the Senate, Juan Miguel Zubiri, has agreed to do a survey on the social impact of the POGOs.

In March, 23 senators signed Resolution No. 996 calling for the suspension of e-sabong after 31 people linked to the industry disappeared. At first, former president Rodrigo Duterte defended e-sabong, arguing that it was necessary for the economy because of a lack of funds as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. He then changed his mind and ordered the suspension of e-sabong operations.

The Philippines finance secretary wants rids of POGOs

Benjamin Diokno, secretary of finance in The Philippines, has suggested that the country should abolish Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs). Speaking at a briefing by the Senate Development Budget Coordinating Committee on the 2023 state spending plan, he told senators that he saw the industry as a risk.

According to GMA network, he said: “If you ask my personal opinion on this, let’s discontinue the POGO because of the social cost. It also has a reputational risk because people will ask, ‘Why are they going to the Philippines? They were discontinued in China and Cambodia, why are they going to the Philippines?”

Diokno said that with China and Cambodia having clamped down on online gaming operations, people may deem the Philippines to be too “loose” or “not strict” with its rules.

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