San Rafael, Bulacan—Partido Reporma standard-bearer Panfilo “Ping” Lacson acknowledged that some Filipinos’ growing addiction to online gambling warrants serious attention from the national government amid reported cases of suicide and destruction of families because of it.
Lacson was referring to the popular electronic cockfight betting or “e-sabong” that was aided by the rise of digital wallets in the country, which he said has now become a “social problem” as it left many compulsive gamblers in deeper financial ruin after losing so much money on their bets.
In a press conference prior to his “Online Kumustahan” gathering in Bulacan Saturday, the veteran lawmaker cited the case of a father who reportedly committed suicide after he could no longer pay back P600,000 he owed due to e-sabong.
“We learned about this father in Pampanga whose debt reached P600,000 because of e-sabong. He committed suicide, left his children behind.
So, there are indeed social problems attached to the issue,” he said.
The presidential aspirant likewise said it is easier for people to get addicted to online gambling as transactions are purely made online, with no cash on hand. This makes the industry much harder to regulate for the government because of the limited coverage of existing laws.
“You know, when you are betting online, you don’t see the actual cash coming out. You keep gambling – let Batman take care of the consequences – and there goes the social problem. So, we really need to look into it, not only for e-sabong but all types of online gambling,” he said.
While Lacson recognized the need to supervise the industry, authorities have to reconcile it with the Constitution first because e-sabong is not considered a public utility. He said it is the reason applications to grant legislative franchise for e-sabong firms remain pending at the Senate Committee on Public Services.
His running mate, Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, echoed the same sentiment.
“My personal view on that is we’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Why? If we don’t grant the franchise, it will keep operating illegally. And when we say illegal, since it is online, it is susceptible to fraud,” Sotto said.
“Once you grant the legislative franchise, there goes what Senator Lacson has pointed out as a problem because it will be open to all. And its operations are not just national in scope, but international,” he added.