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Bill vs E-sabong gets House nod on final reading (Sabong Arena)

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Genre Sabong Arena
Keywords E-sabong
Article ID 00000121
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MANILA, Philippines — With 185 votes, the House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill that aims to end the proliferation of unlawful electronic sabong (cockfighting) or e-sabong by strengthening and expanding the mandate of the Games and Amusement Board (GAB). Lawmakers stamped their approval on House Bill 8910, a consolidation of two other bills (HBs 4843 and 6983) of Reps. Rodel Batocabe (AKO Bicol party-list, deceased) and Winston Castelo (Quezon City) and Joseph Bernos (Abra), respectively, providing more supervisory powers to the GAB. The consolidated measure aims to amend a 45-year-old Marcos decree where regulations have been provided for cockfighting in 1974, but which did not foresee then the advent of a digital technology where cockfighting would be borderless, if not limitless. The borderless nature of the digital age has been taking its toll on government revenues, where cunning gamblers have devised ways to evade paying taxes – like the introduction and local and global proliferation of what is now popularly called e-sabong. Administration lawmakers have been trying to put a stop to the proliferation of e-sabong in the hopes the national government may recover millions of pesos in lost revenues borne out only of a decree that never saw a borderless environment 45 years later. Under HB 8910, supervising the sports of horseracing and cockfighting will now be placed under GAB, an agency under the Office of the President headed by former Palawan congressman and governor Abraham Mitra, with commissioners Mario Masanguid and Edward Trinidad. Mitra said the measure expands the powers of GAB for the enforcement of laws relevant to professional sports, in connection with the development of new forms of professional sports and modes of betting systems because of new technology. The bill seeks to provide GAB the mandate to regulate the proliferation of an internet-based betting system for cockfighting. The measure also provides GAB the authority to establish a set of uniform rules and regulations enforceable at all cockpits in the country. Mitra, himself a cockfight aficionado, lamented that the government gets nothing out of the live streaming of cockfights, especially since the Philippine Gamefowl Commission (PGC), which originally had jurisdiction over them, had been abolished. “The national government gets nothing from this. And neither are we remitting to the Bureau of Treasury,” he said, noting it was ironic that there have been collections in the towns or barangays where cockfights were held. The defunct PGC’s residual functions and responsibilities have been absorbed by GAB. “The problem here is that there is a loophole and it needs regulation. And e-sabong can be held every day because this is virtual reality. This is not online gambling because there is a live feed or live streaming,” the late Batocabe pointed out in a hearing last year. “There’s no online betting here because the bets are placed in cockpit arenas,” he explained. Camarines Sur Sports Arena owner Ricardo Magtuto admitted it can be held daily, on top of the legal cockfights on Sundays and holidays. Magtuto told lawmakers this can be done “every day” for as long as there is a live feed from operator Global Cockfight Live to where they “subscribe,” and which has secured a permit from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. This shocked Abang Lingkod party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano. “The government gets nothing from all these. You can just imagine those who engage in e-sabong from Saudi Arabia and Dubai alone. At most, GAB only gets P90,000 while they get millions.” As a matter of policy, Mitra said they get P300 per sultada (round of cockfighting).

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