Pasig City opens the New Year with one of the boldest moves by its mayor, Vico Sotto. He has now followed through with the implementation of a local ordinance to ban all online and offshore gaming operations in the city.
Sotto has cited that this decision was coming from reports and feedback wherein gambling “undermines the social, moral, and economic growth” of Pasig. He first approved the City Ordinance No. 55, authored by Councilor Simon Tantoco, which prohibits the issuance of permits to companies conducting e-Games, “e-Sabong,” e-Bingo, online poker and casinos, computer gaming stations, and Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos). The ordinance also covers banning operations of service providers giving technical support to online gambling, including gaming agents and other businesses related to Pogos.
Since the ordinance was approved, Sotto has caught the attention of several prominent observers and commentators who provided feedback that was positive and encouraging for him. Most have hailed this move by Sotto as “brave” since the revenue generated by businesses involved in gambling is a significant chunk of the local government’s coffers. Sotto’s move is actually the exact opposite of other nearby cities wherein local governments are opting to expand businesses in gambling even further. An example of this is Quezon City where it has recently allowed the construction of a casino within its borders.
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Income loss from taxes from banned gaming & gambling operations
Mayor Vico Sotto also considered the loss in income from taxes from banned gaming and gambling operations won’t be making a great impact on Pasig city’s revenues. He digressed during the flag-raising ceremony last December 27, “Even before this ordinance the two remaining Pogos operating in Pasig have closed shop. In truth, they didn’t have a permit, they just started operating,” further saying that with the new gambling regulation, no individual or company will be allowed to set up gambling operations in the city.
Citing a report showing the ill effects of online gaming on the city and its residents on an incident where a 22-year-old mother from Pasig reportedly “pawned” her eight-month-old daughter to pay off the debt she incurred while playing e-Sabong, or online cockfighting.
“Have you seen anyone who entered online gambling and ended up improving their lives? Temporarily, yes, but overall, you can check. They all lost money and many got addicted to gambling.” he pointed out.
He readily admitted to being personally offended by reports of alleged offers of bribes during the permit renewal season saying, “For the longest time, these e-games and e-bingo have been a symbol of corruption in our city. We heard that they have a budget every year for our officials. We do not want that,” referring to news that some councilors, either former or incumbent, use his name, and implying that the bribes would guarantee the grant of a permit.
Pasig city officials proved that the loss of revenue is not at all relevant. The city government would lose only PHP 3 million in income. Based on a Commission on the Audit report, Pasig City is the fourth richest city in the country, with assets totaling PHP 51.18 billion, behind Quezon City, Makati, and Manila.
However, at the 2020 Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reflects that the gambling industry was the top-paying employer in the country’s arts, entertainment, and recreation sector. The gambling industry’s compensation outmatched that of the entire sector with workers earning an average of PHP 465,000 in salaries and benefits, compared with those employed in arts, entertainment, cultural activities, and sports, who earned on average only PHP 314,000 in 2020.
Included in the report are details to complete the entire picture of how beneficial gambling or gaming is citing the negative effects and reports that come with it such as problems both personal and social. This brings on the reports last year of some 30 cockfighters went missing from cockpits where they were either operators or gamblers and till today their whereabouts remain a mystery.
e-Sabong executive kidnapping
The most recent news report connected to gambling incidents is the dismissal of five Laguna police officials allegedly involved in the kidnapping of an e-Sabong executive. There are also complaints received of the kidnapping of gamblers from China who owed huge debts to casino financiers, more so of POGO workers fighting amongst themselves in public creating public disturbances.
To sum up Mayor Sotto’s seemingly too idealistic stance on gambling, this is still a decision that makes sense and weighs significantly on the importance of creating a positive environment for the city he governs.
This news shows how governance can make changes happen in whichever direction it chooses. Kudos to Mayor Vico Sotto for showing his decisiveness as well as an insightful stance on things. Hopefully, he can show a solid path when long-term effects prove that there is another way to address any loss from banning a business sector in society. What about you, dear readers? Comment down below, we always look forward to hearing from you. Cheers!