Jade Entertainment CEO Joe Pisano recently penned a contribution article for Asia Gaming Brief in which he discussed the state of illegal gambling in the Philippines and the active steps taken that can be taken by the regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), consumers and other entities in tackling the issue.
While much progress has been registered, Pisano wrote, there needs to be more done in order to ensure that the illegal gambling market is eliminated or at least marginalized. According to Pisano, the current state of the market is worth trillions of pesos or millions, perhaps billions of dollars.
Illegal Gambling Sucks Away Vital Revenue
This is revenue that is simply not going to the government, which is looking to raise more funds to bolster its public purse in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. PAGCOR Chair and CEO Andrea Domingo is confident that the regulator could levy up to PHP65 billion in terms of gross gaming revenue, which is roughly $600 million.
The issue is not that the country is raising taxes nor that gross gaming revenue is continuing to climb up. While these things are good, Pisano is worried that the actual number of illegal online betting sites is not kept track of.
In fact, such websites are having a field day as they coax people to sign for their services through social media and enjoy a fairly cushy number as regulators are not as aggressive against this type of advertisement it seems
Pisano outlines some of the other issues that actually enable players in the Philippines to continue turning to illegal gambling. One of them is the convenience of the payment gateways. In other words, a player can quickly top up an illegal gambling site account and participate in that form of gambling oblivious of their own safety, but also depriving the government of much-valued taxable pesos.
Pisano has also sounded the alarm over the growth of the illegal gambling market despite the increase in regulated gambling operations. He acknowledged that the government of former President Rodrigo Duterte had to make some tough calls – e-sabong, an activity that was bringing a hefty peso back to the budget had to be suspended over the disappearances of what Pisano writes are at least 30 people.
Power to the People
But even though regulation has come to help the Philippines in establishing a more accountable gambling industry, the proliferation of the black market has not been stopped – at least not entirely. Pisano said that one way of this is to encourage consumers to be proactive in helping to tackle the black market.
Raising awareness among consumers will empower them to report the issue to the relevant authorities and save valuable time for regulators and law enforcement which can focus on suspending the offending services – not waste time trying to secure them.
Pisano believes that the central bank can step up and control the flow of money from and towards illegal gambling sites, using payment gateways for the job and ensuring that it’s stopping them in the tracks. Pisano also wants to see the 13 licensees that are currently regulated in the industry step up and start helping the country address the issue as well.