A President Anti-gambling - Rodrigo Duterte
Posted in Industry January 4, 2017

Is This Truly the End of Online Gambling in the Philippines?

Rodrigo Duterte, the 16th President of the Philippines was elected only in 2016 but he has already earned himself a reputation with his ongoing fight against all things online gambling-related. The latest episode in this campaign is the announcement of closing gambling companies in his country. However, only a few days after this rather disturbing piece of news, Duterte has shown some signs of backtracking. So, what’s really going on with the online gambling in the Philippines and how will this affect the rest of the industry?

Closing the Online Gambling Business Tight

The Presidential announcement about closing this type of business came during the presentation of the budget for 2017. Duterte claimed that these companies have no use and are therefore to be completely shutdown. He was also very clear on that ALL Philippine online gambling businesses are to suffer such fate, with no exceptions.

These words were further supported by the Justice Minister. The lack of state regulation of this business was claimed as the main reason for the drastic step. It is, at the very least, understandable as under the current laws of the Philippines, the government really doesn’t have much say in regulating the online gambling industry.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) is the giver of licenses to online gambling businesses in the country and it seems to be on the side of the President. The incident with denying to renew the license of PhilWeb, the most successful Philippine online gambling business, is a sure proof of this. This change alone has led to the closing of 299 PhilWeb’s outlets.

Duterte seemed to be extremely determined in his anti-gambling crusade, and definitely applying the same aggressive approach to it as he had taken in his fight against crime and drugs. Please be advised that it’s this rather ‘cutthroat’ stance that got him elected in the first place. Over his career, Duterte has shown himself to be a ruthless fighter for his politics, a position that isn’t well-accepted by the United Nations Humans Rights Organization.

Did Duterte Have a Change of Heart?

Not all may be lost for the Philippine online gambling business just yet. After the swift and decisive dealing with PhilWeb, the President seems to have mellowed out a bit toward this particular industry. He was even reported saying that he would leave the gambling web portals be so long as they are diligent in paying their taxes.

It’s said that there may even be the chance for PhilWeb yet to make a return to the market. The President stated that his anger towards this business was caused mostly by the fact that the youth of the country was gambling uncontrollably and that the companies weren’t meeting their honest tax obligations.

However, provided that these businesses are located in specified areas (within a certain distance from schools and churches), and make the necessary contributions to the country’s budget, they can remain active.

Which Online Gambling Businesses Will Stay in the Philippines?

The reasonable question to ask, when getting such mismatched signals from the government, is what exactly one must do to stay in the business? Thankfully, the answer to this was provided by Vitaliano Aguirre, the Justice Secretary. He said that only the online gambling portals engaging in any illegal activities would be facing closure. However, as long as they comply with all PAGCOR licensing regulations, they can resume their work.

Aguirre is the name that the Philippine business elite would have to remember as he is the newly appointed leader of the online task force. One of his main tasks is to ensure that gambling licenses are distributed fairly and to eliminate corruption in this particular field. As of now, PAGCOR is the ultimate gambling licensing authority in the country. It’s reported that PhilWeb, which has been denied to renew their license, may have a chance at it as whatever issues that caused the problem are resolved.

The recent scandal with Jack Lam and his over 1,300 illegal Chinese workers in a call center is believed to be one of the major motivators that brought on the current situation. Lam is currently charged with economic sabotage and bribery, and his case doesn’t look promising so far.

What Will the Philippine Gambling Stance Mean for the Industry?

This is a question asked by major gambling portals the world over, not only in the immediate vicinity of the Philippines. On one hand, there is no arguing the fact that this country’s policies regarding this industry won’t affect other countries directly, as this is an in-state matter. On the other hand, there is a chance that some other leaders would use Duterte’s actions as inspiration in their own fight against online gambling.

Hopefully, the other nations would follow the lead of other Presidents, for example, like the US President-Elect Donald Trump. He majorly relies on the support of the gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson. This gives all American gamblers a hope that they would be able to enjoy online gambling in their own country within the next few years. Obviously, there are a lot other licenses to go after for all virtual casinos as well. It’s probably safe to say that we’ll all get to enjoy online casinos and gambling for just a little while longer.

PAGCOR, Philippines, PhilWeb, Regulation, Rodrigo Duterte


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