Pres. Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, Dec. 22, ordered the closure of all online gaming firms, saying the country has no mechanism to regulate online gambling.
“I am ordering the closure of all online gaming, all of them. They have no use to government,” Duterte said during his speech after the ceremonial signing of the P3.35 trillion national budget for 2017.
Duterte said he is ordering the closure because while gambling in the Philippines is taxable, the government has no mechanism to track down and collect taxes from bets placed outside the country.
“Yung online sa Pilipinas, pero ‘yung betting outside, wala tayong mechanism (The online firm is in the Philippines, but we have no mechanism against the betting coming from outside the country),” Duterte said.
Earlier, Duterte ordered the arrest of Macau gaming tycoon Jack Lam for allegedly trying to bribe government officials to free more than 1,000 illegal Chinese workers arrested in his online gambling facility in Pampanga last November.
Aside from ordering his arrest, the president also ordered last week the seizure of all of Lam’s assets in the Philippines for not paying the correct taxes.
Duterte said that while it was true that Lam paid taxes for all bets received by his gambling enterprise from bettors within the Philippines, no tax had been paid for bets from other countries, which were placed online.
In his inaugural speech in June, Duterte had ordered the shutting down of online gambling in the country, particularly the e-games and e-bingo outlets that proliferated around the country.
In August, he publicly declared that he wanted to “destroy” former Marcos-era minister Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin, who then controlled PhilWeb, the biggest operator of online gambling in the country. This pronouncement and the subsequent non-renewal of its license precipitated the crash of PhilWeb in the local stock exchange.
In a bid to save the company, Ongpin offered to give the stocks to the government in return for renewal of its license by Pagcor. However, this offer was rejected by the Duterte.
Ongpin then sold his majority stake in PhilWeb for P2 billion to Greggy Araneta, husband of Irene Marcos-Araneta, whose family is supportive of Duterte. After the transaction, shares of PhilWeb began to recover, giving Araneta huge financial windfall of at least P8 billion.
PhilWeb said contrary to public perception, it is not an online gambling firm but a “gaming” software provider to various operators.
“PhilWeb’s software cannot be played from homes or offices. Each e-Games outlet is owned by an individual entrepreneur whose Gaming License is issued by PAGCOR directly to them. Each e-Games outlet therefore pays all taxes, as does PhilWeb itself,” the company said in a disclosure after Duterte made his latest tirade.
A report by ABS-CBN.com said Araneta is “personally funding” PhilWeb while it awaits the renewal of its license from the government. –PNA