Pasig bans Pogos, online gambling firms
Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto has approved a local ordinance banning all online and offshore gaming operations in his jurisdiction, pointing out that gambling “undermines the social, moral and economic growth” of the city. City Ordinance No. 55, authored by Councilor Simon Tantoco, prohibits the issuance of permits to companies conducting e-games, “e-sabong,” e-bingo, online poker and casinos, computer gaming stations, and Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos).
Also barred are operations of service providers giving technical support to online gambling, including gaming agents and other businesses related to Pogo.
Legally established gaming companies in the city may renew their licenses, but on condition that they would stop their operations by the end of 2023, according to the ordinance.
Any person who violates the new regulation will be fined P5,000 or face a one-year imprisonment, or both.
Prior to the ban, Sotto said during the flag-raising ceremony on Dec. 27 that the remaining Pogo companies in the city had already ceased operating.
Social ills, bribery
“Even before this ordinance, the two remaining Pogos operating in Pasig have closed shop. In truth, they didn’t have a permit, they just started operating,” Sotto said, adding that with the new gaming regulation, no individual or company would be allowed to set up gambling operations in the city.
The landmark anti-gambling ordinance was passed to address the ill effects of online gaming on the city and its residents, explained Sotto.
He cited an incident wherein a 22-year-old mother from Pasig City reportedly pawned her 8-month-old daughter to pay for the debt she incurred in e-sabong, or online cockfighting, last March.
“Have you seen anyone who entered online gambling and ended up improving their lives? Temporarily, yes, but overall, you can check. They all lost money and many got addicted to gambling,” Sotto said in Filipino.
Aside from the negative impact of online gambling, Sotto said that he was personally offended by reports of alleged offers of bribes during the permit renewal season.
“For the longest time, these e-games and e-bingo have been a symbol of corruption in our city,” Sotto said.
“There may be some councilors before or even now who use my name, saying they will give you a permit if you give them something. We heard that they have a budget every year for our officials. We do not want that,” he noted.
According to the Commission on Audit’s annual financial report for local governments released last Oct. 10, Pasig City was the fourth-richest city in the country with assets totaling P51.18 billion as of end-2021, behind Quezon City, Makati City and Manila.
Even with the ban on gambling companies, however, the Pasig City Public Information Office estimated that the city would lose only P3 million in income.
The series of crimes related to offshore gaming in the country has sparked investigations and debates about its operations among legislators.
Earlier this year, the Philippine National Police admitted that crimes involving Pogo personnel have spiked compared to last year. Most of the kidnapping cases were in Metro Manila where Pogo companies and casinos are located.
The perils of e-sabong also gained national attention with the disappearance of more than 30 cockfighters last year and mounting complaints about its unpleasant repercussions on families and society.
Former President Rodrigo Duterte eventually ordered a stop to e-sabong, which has been contributing about P640 million a month to government coffers through fees collected by the state-run regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., following a survey conducted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government that listed the negative social effects of e-sabong on Filipinos.
Lawmakers and civil society groups have long been calling for a nationwide ban on other forms of online gambling due to the crimes associated with this sector. INQ
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