Online gambling craze: Rise of ‘e-sabong’ alarms solons
As online gaming goes grassroots, you can now bet on fighting cocks without having to jostle your way inside a crowded, noisy cockpit.
The rising popularity of online cockfighting (locally known as “sabong”), which is drawing huge crowds at betting stations and enticing bettors overseas, has raised concern among members of the House of Representatives.
At Monday’s hearing by the House committee on games and amusement, Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe noted that betting in cockfights streamed online in real time (“e-sabong”) was being done in the provinces without state regulation.
According to Batocabe, he himself witnessed the popularity of the new gambling craze, which has been reportedly attracting bettors overseas, including mainland China.
“This replaced movie watching as pastime. In the past, people in the provinces would line up before a movie house opens,” Batocabe told the hearing presided by Parañaque Rep. Gustavo Tambunting.
“Now, people would go to the market in the morning and line up outside cockfight arenas in the afternoon for the online cockfights,” he lamented.
House committee inquiry
The committee conducted the inquiry after Abra Rep. Joseph Sto. Niño Bernos filed House Bill No. 6983 that would allow the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) to regulate the cockfighting industry.
Grilled by Batocabe, cockpit operator Ricardo Magtuto admitted that unlike regular cockfights, which were allowed only on Sundays, holidays and town fiestas, online cockfighting could be held every day.
Magtuto, who runs cockfights and e-sabong at Camarines Sur Sports Arena, said operators of online cockfighting had tie-ups with groups hosting regular cockfights, usually in Metro Manila cockpits.
E-sabong aficionados would then place bets on their chosen game birds as they would in regular cockpits, he said.
“That’s the problem. They found a loophole in the law,” Batocabe said.
1-Pacman Rep. Enrico Pineda said it would be unlawful for e-sabong operators to collect bets outside of the cockpit.
Under existing laws, only the local government units are authorized to issue permits for cockfighting events, he noted.
“Otherwise, those e-sabong operations are already outside the jurisdiction of the local government unit. That’s why this should be regulated,” Pineda said.
GAB Chair Abraham Kahlil Mitra admitted that the agency had no mandate to regulate e-sabong based on its own rules and regulations, and Presidential Decree No. 449, or the Cockfighting Law of 1974.
Ermar Benitez, GAB’s legal officer, warned that the results of online cockfights could be susceptible to manipulation.
“There’s a need to monitor the accuracy and timeliness of the cockfights because even one second spells a difference in the results [of the fight],” Benitez said.