When it comes to promoting “moral wellness,” Pasig City in the Philippines is going all out. Its government said on Tuesday that it will no longer provide licenses to internet gambling businesses, forcing those already operating there to leave.
The shift occurs after a wave of negative press about internet gambling in the country. The segment of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) and e-sabong in particular have cast a shadow over the whole gaming industry.
There was nothing intrinsically bad about playing POGOs or e-sabong or betting on cockfights. Pasig City is making the entire industry pay for the damage done by the actions of a few dishonest people.
Not Morally Acceptable
Future actions regarding internet gambling in the city will be governed by Ordinance 55. Everything from play-for-fun online games (POGOs) to virtual casinos, bingo halls, poker rooms, and more is included.
According to OKBET Casino Today the new law was passed on December 15 by the municipal council and is in force immediately. Within a year of the ordinance’s passage, any operator partaking in the prohibited online activity must cease all operations. In addition to regulating iGaming operators, the new law would regulate the businesses that facilitate the sector.
Since the inception of the POGO ecosystem, the Philippines have reaped several benefits, including financial ones. After the government attempted to increase the taxes paid by the sector, many operators shifted from following the laws to doing business illegally. Slave labor, kidnappings, and torture were all part of this.
E-sabong was immediately under fire as media sources reported that some individuals were pawning newborns to pay off gambling debts. A woman, age 22, sold her infant to pay off a debt of about $858. They were based out of Pasig City where her home was.
Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, who was re-elected in May, thus doesn’t think there should be legal gaming in his city. The rule was put in place to “defend the social and moral wellbeing of the society.”
A fine of PHP5,000 (about US$89.60) and/or up to a year in jail awaits anyone who break the new ordinance.
Government Coffer to Take a Hit
Whether or not his ultimatum yields the result he anticipates is debatable. Evidence from throughout the world shows that prostitution continues even when it is banned, and that the underground market is a deadly area for gamblers.
Pasig City ranks as the fourth wealthiest municipality in the Manila region. But with Ordinance 55, it stands to lose part of its funding. Sotto estimates that the annual cost to the government due to the limitation will be roughly PHP3 million (US$53,790).
Those are the immediate repercussions on the economy, but there may be more. With the industry gone, people will be out of work, which might have a negative impact on the city’s economy. Sotto said that the losses were “quite tiny price to pay for the city.”
Legislators around the country applaud what Pasig City has done. There’s an effort afoot to put an end to internet gambling in the country, but there’s still a long way to go.