Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte says he does not want to see the nation’s e-sabong operations suspended due to the revenue the popular pastime generates for the government.
His comments follow calls from the senate to suspend e-sabong while an investigation into the disappearances of 31 cockfighting fans takes place. Philippines gaming regulator PAGCOR has already been ordered to take part in a multi-agency investigation alongside the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
According to local media outlet the Inquirer, Duterte said this week that he does not believe a full suspension of e-sabong is the answer.
“For me, I did not immediately react and push for the suspension because of the income that the government derives from allowing these kind of games to go online,” he said. The problem is, you can’t control the bettors.”
PAGCOR is estimating the government will raise up to Php8 billion (US$153 million) from e-sabong in 2022.
As previously reported by IAG, the unsolved disappearances include 10 men who went missing shortly after being seen in cockfighting arenas in Laguna and Manila on 13 January, another six men after participating in a cockfighting tournament in Manila on the same day and 10 men from Bulacan who have been missing since attended a cockfighting match in mid-2021.
PAGCOR began issuing licenses to selected e-sabong operators in May 2021 in an effort to raise revenues while stamping out illegal online activities.
The regulator said at the time that it “advises the public not to engage in any gaming activity from unlicensed e-sabong operators and unregistered e-sabong websites to avoid being duped and cheated of your hard-earned money.
“It is for the above reasons that PAGCOR had to step in to regulate the emerging industry to primarily protect the Filipino players and to ensure that the government get its appropriate share of revenues from their operations. Without regulation, e-sabong will proliferate and have far reaching detrimental effects on its players.”