The Department of Information and Communications Technology will create a special task force to detect and dismantle e-sabong operations in the country.
The Philippines.- More than two months since former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte banned e-sabong operations in the country, police continue to uncover online cockfighting operations. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has now announced the creation of a task force to monitor and coordinate enforcement action against them.
DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy said the department would intensify the campaign against websites that promote online cockfighting. In May, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) asked Facebook to block pages promoting online cockfights. A week ago, police in Manila arrested a man who was allegedly involved in e-sabong games.
The rise and fall of e-sabong in The Philippines
Back in December 2020, the House of Representatives in the Philippines approved a bill to tax online betting on sabong events held in legal cockpits and transmitted through streaming systems. A few months later, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) announced that two licensed e-sabong operators had started to operate in the country.
The regulator had hoped to collect between PHP250m and PHP350m per month from the new vertical. However, in March when 23 Senators called for PAGCOR to suspend e-sabong operations after the disappearance of 31 people linked to the industry.
At first, President 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. However, after receiving criticism for prioritising the economy over people, he changed his mind and ordered the suspension of online cockfighting operations in May.
The announcement puts in doubt PAGCOR’s revenue expectations. The regulator had achieved a monthly turnover of PHP650m through e-Sabong. From April 2021 to December 2021, the government earned about PHP3.69bn and from January to March 15, 2022, approximately PHP1.37bn was collected from the operations of seven licensees.
The Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation have been urged to investigate employees at Lucky 8 Star Quest over the disappearances connected to the industry. According to a committee report, those who disappeared were last seen at arenas operated by the firm.