Gaming regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) said it has “reservations” on the call of lawmakers to suspend the licenses of “e-sabong” firms, saying that it might result to billions of pesos of lost revenues.
Senators made the call to suspend the licenses, following the recent disappearance of more than 30 cockfighting enthusiasts.
Facing a hearing at the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs on the missing “sabungeros,” PAGCOR chair Andrea Domingo said the suspension of e-sabong licenses is “not easy” because of its effect on revenues.
Domingo said the PAGCOR also wants to resolve the case of the missing persons.
The PAGCOR chief said monthly revenue from e-sabong, on average, from May to December 2021 is about aP400 million, which grew to P640 million a month since January.
Domingo said PAGCOR “stands” to pay the P640 million a month, if the regulator suspends the e-sabong operations.
She further said there might legal charges that the PAGCOR could face if it heeds the Senate’s calls.
In a GMAnews report, Domingo cited a ase of former Immigration commissioners who were directed by the Commission on Audit (COA) “to return billions of peosos because they followed one of the former Philippine president’s directive to reduce the cost of the I-Card being levied against foreigners in the country.”
Aside from possible liabilities, She said the PAGCOR could face “legal charges for violating their contracts with the e-sabong licensees.”
The GMAnew report quoted Domingo as saying that under their agreement with the e-sabong licensees, “operators would need to pay P2.5 million for the license, P75 million cash performance bond, and P75 minimum guarantee every month.”
“While we do really want to solve this problem of missing persons, PAGCOR is a civilian government corporation that is not empowered and does not have the authority that the law enforcement agencies have. Neither do we have the authority to conduct criminal investigation nor the capability to do so,” Domingo, in the report, said, adding that “and this is a very important matter, that it could yield P7 billion in a year, this year. That could help government with its health problems and economic problems that we, on our own, can decide.”
President Rodrigo Duterte denied he is in favor of suspending online cockfighting or e-sabong operations, according to Domingo, citing Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
In the Senate hearing, Senator Ronald dela Rosa, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said if he is in charge of PAGCOR, he would go straight to Malacañang to raise his concerns.
But Domingo said she asked Medialdea about the reports saying Duterte had already agreed to suspend the license to operate of e-sabong firms.
Dela Rosa, however insisted that he met with Duterte last Sunday, and that the President “already agreed to suspend these licenses.”
Earlier, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, citing information from Dela Rosa, said the President already agreed to suspend e-sabong.
Proposed Senate Resolution 996, signed by at least 23 senators and filed last Monday, urges the gaming regulator to suspend online sabong’s license to operate and stop all activities.