A Philippines senator has filed a bill that would ban almost all online gambling in the country and impose severe penalties against those who engage in any online gambling activities.
According to GMA Network, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva filed Senate Bill 1281, also known as the Anti-Online Gambling Act, in response to recent reports around kidnapping and human trafficking cases linked to the Philippines’ POGO and e-Sabong industries.
Licensed e-Sabong operations have already been put on hold following a series of unsolved disappearances earlier this year, while PAGCOR chief Alejandro Tengco warned last week that failure by POGO operators to address issues of kidnapping and human trafficking could see the entire POGO industry wound down.
In filing his Anti-Online Gambling Act this week, Villanueva said these cases “show that the social cost of gambling is too high – bankruptcy, broken families and criminal activities, among others.” POGO, he added, “has resulted in rising criminality, including prostitution, and increased threat of money laundering, among others.
“The bill seeks to prohibit online gambling and the placing of wagers or bets through the internet or any form of online gambling activities to prevent further deterioration of morals and values, encourage people to work instead of relying on a game of chance, stop addiction and save lives.”
Under the Act, any person who places, receives or otherwise knowingly transmits a bet or wager by any means which involves the use, in whole or in part, of the internet, would be punished by an imprisonment ranging from one to six months or a fine ranging from Php100,000 to Php500,000 (US$1,745 to US$8,725).
Corporations and their senior officers would face fines of Php500,000 and a maximum penalty of five years in prison. If passed, the law would also repeal the authority of government to regulate online gambling.
The proposed law comes after PAGCOR announced Saturday that it had ordered the closure of two POGOs, and revoked the license of one, following the rescue of more than 140 foreign workers being held against their will.