Filipino Lawmaker Warns Online Cockfighting, Gambling Are Country’s New Pandemic

Alan Peter Cayetano is an ex-House Speaker from the Philippines currently hunting for a seat in the Senate. On Monday, he pleaded with Congress to reject the applications for 25-year legislative franchises requested by two different e-sabong companies in the country. His legislative endeavor follows Deputy Speaker Eddie Villanueva’s last week’s attempt to convince Congress to give a negative vote to a House Bill proposing the grant of a similar legislative franchise to the Visayas Cockers Club Inc. 

If granted, the legislative franchises would last for two and a half decades, enabling the e-sabong companies to operate wagering stations located off-site. The legislative franchise solution is subsequent to the country’s lawmakers passing the November 20202 bill regulating and taxing blood sport

The House of Representatives has already approved a legislative franchise bill for the Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc. that would enable the company to build and operate both on- and off-cockpit betting stations. Cayetano had also firmly opposed the legislative franchise, but to no avail, as the bill was approved in September.

Cayetano Argues the Government Must Fight Back 

Cayetano has referred to online sabong and gambling as a “new pandemic” and emphasized that the Government should quickly step in and prevent the economic downfall and moral degradation of the Filipino people. 

He also argued that, in his opinion, the government might be trying to push the “pandemic” through The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGO) and expressed his hope that Congress would go against the plans. 

Cayetano used the case of People v. Punto to point out that, as early as 100 years ago, the Filipino Supreme Court first recognized the need to prohibit gambling because of the risk of the nation’s moral, social, and economic development. 

He also used the example of Davao de Oro, a student from Maco who, at the age of just 19 was put under arrest at the beginning of November 2021 after failing to pay e-sabong debts worth around $11,000. Cayetano has used this example to discuss the importance of protecting minors, as well as habitual players, mentally vulnerable people, and people getting into debt to wager from the hidden perils of e-gambling and online cockfighting.

Cayetano’s efforts are backed by the Catholic Church. Prior to his press conference during the weekend, a few important clergy members expressed their opinion against online cockfighting. Bishop Alberto Uy of the Diocese of Tagbilaran feared e-sabong would turn families apart, corrupt members of the society, and “incite crimes”. 

Sabong Is a Billion-Dollar Industry in the Philippines that Exploded During the Pandemic

Sabong is deeply rooted in the country’s culture, dating back centuries ago. Sabong is also considered a national sport, and the industry is worth a billion dollars. e-Sabong is the online alternative of the sport, and it has only been around for approximately a decade. e-Sabong enables punters to place wagers in real-time on bouts that are streamed live. Online cockfighting has reached an impressive growth during the pandemic, when live sabong was banned. 

Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, many cities used to allow regulated cockfighting under the careful supervision of government units in the area. Cayetano insisted upon the need to properly regulate the sport and emphasized the fact that the acceptance of online gambling would trigger a lack of regulation, as well as a lack of proper protection for gamblers.

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