The re-elected mayor of Pasig, Vico Sotto has stood his ground on approving an encompassing policy that bans all forms of online gambling in the city. This move comes from the continuous flow of news on illicit online gambling from POGOs, missing persons that have hounded e-Sabong, as well as feedback from constituents on their stand on how gambling itself erodes the moral compass of a community.
Sotto: Total ban on online gambling
In a recent public appearance, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto approved a proclamation that prohibits all forms of online gambling in the city. He further expressed that this decision comes with the undeniable spate of news of where gambling can lead a community in a not-so-favorable direction. He noted that the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) segment and e-Sabong have placed cast a dark shadow over the entire gambling industry.
The practices of the few illicit individuals involved in otherwise benign POGO and e-Sabong industries have caused a significant amount of harm, and violent and criminal acts have affected the citizens of Pasig City.
“Protect the Social and Moral Welfare…”
Sotto approved Ordinance 55 which governs Pasig city’s stance toward online gambling from hereon. This will cover the following areas of online gambling: POGOs, online casinos, e-Sabong, e-Bingo, online poker, and everything else related to online gaming.
The new ordinance was unanimously agreed on and also approved by the city council on the 15th of December 2022. It takes immediately and this also mentioned that any online gambling operator who is covered by the ordinance in Pasig City will have to exit within a year. In the details, the new law also includes the service providers who support the iGaming industry.
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POGO ecosystem consistently turned for the worse
During the early days when the POGO ecosystem first emerged, it brought many positive results to the community. This also included additional revenue to the city coffers. But the tides turned when the government issued changes to increase the taxes paid by online gambling operators. Many of the operators went from playing by the rules to simply just forging on running their operations by any means necessary that spelled the extremely negative acts of slave labour, kidnappings and torture in some establishments who also went underground to keep from being detected.
The traditional and much-loved game of Sabong became a lucrative online e-Sabong industry especially when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Sabong is legal in the country and there are many fighting pits that host the game regularly for many decades. Esabong became a convenient way of wagering on the game despite lockdowns or being far from the cockfighting venues. Esabong became a lucrative endeavour for everyone until it took a dim turn.
Gambling addiction became very evident with e-Sabong. The news began reporting increasing instances of this among which were stories of babies being pawned just to be able to pay off one’s gambling debts. A case that stood out was that of a 22-year-old mother who sold her newborn to settle a debt of around USD858. This impacted Pasig city as the woman hails from the city.
This was the online gambling environment that reelected Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto faced. He has since become resolute that gambling doesn’t have a place in his jurisdiction. This was coming from intentions to “protect the social and moral welfare of the community.”
Currently, the new ordinance carries a stiff penalty to any violator with PHP5000 (USD89.60) and a possible jail time of up to a year.
You might also want to check: POGO Phaseout Supported by Business Groups
Ban will negatively impact Pasig City’s revenue
Only time will tell if the ordinance will have an impactful result on the community. Sotto does remain open for discussion on whatever conclusions will be drawn from the move to ban all online gambling in Pasig City. The global reports do cite that there is evidence of gambling simply doesn’t stop just because it’s declared illegal — therefore pushing the industry, including its participants — into more dangerous territory in the black market.
Currently, Pasig City stands as the fourth-richest city in the greater Manila area. With the implementation of Ordinance 55, Sotto is well aware that this restriction will cost the government around PHP3 million (USD53,790) a year.
This amount does cover only the direct economic impact but does not mirror the financial impact that affects job loss which carries an added cost to the city’s income generation. Sotto is well aware of this and asserted that this is a “very small price to pay for the city.”
This brazen act Pasig City has undertaken about online gambling is also a sought-after action at a national level. There are plans to carry this through but bringing a similar ordinance to become a nationwide endeavour does take a herculean effort to move all the right parts to its implementation.
On my end, online gambling is like alcohol during the time of prohibition. Despite the harsh implementation and blood-curdling consequences of said move to ban alcohol — it simply just drove the industry underground and laid waste to thousands of lives. Alcohol is now regulated and those who become addicted to this can seek help freely and without prejudice. Online gambling should be taken as so. Imagine how this can become a dire situation if it thrives in the black market. Any thoughts on this, dear readers? Just comment down below, we always look forward to this, thanks!