House committee pushes bill regulating online ‘sabong’

The House Committee on Games and Amusements on Monday, Aug. 13, approved the creation of a technical working group (TWG) that will craft a new bill regulating e-sabong or online sabong in the country.

Photo credit: Sabong OnLine

Committee chair Gus Tambunting (2nd District, Parañaque City) named Rep. Rodel Batocabe (Party-list, Ako Bicol) as head of the TWG.

Rep. Enrico Pineda (Party-list, 1 Pacman) said that to expedite passage of the bill, lawmakers should give the mandate to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to oversee and regulate e-sabong.

“If we will work on a bill that will legalize e-sabong, it will take forever. But if we will give the mandate to PAGCOR for them to oversee and regulate e-sabong, I think we can pass it (bill) immediately,” said Pineda.

Batocabe also raised the question as to who will enforce the e-sabong regulations, especially if the violation is committed by the local government unit (LGU). “The problem now is who will enforce the regulations if the LGU is the one violating the law?” asked Batocabe.

Batocabe said the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) needs to be empowered to be able to enforce laws, including the establishment of cockpits.

Tambunting assured GAB chairman Abraham Kahlil Mitra that they will be given a committee report on the authority of GAB on cockfighting operations.

Meanwhile, Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano (Party-list, Abang Lingkod) said the Committee should ensure that e-sabong regulations also cover international fights that involve considerable amounts of money.

“Yung live streaming outside the country, mas matindi (ang) pustahan doon and nothing goes to the government. It’s unfair to the government. ‘Yung betting sa mga international derbies, millions of pesos ang involved. Now, the GAB is just getting P300 per sultada” Paduano said.

Paduano also moved to cease the off-track betting (OTB) activities of the Manila Cockers Club Inc. It was disclosed to the committee that there are e-sabong games operated in OTBs that provide horse racing games.

The committee’s hearings on e-sabong was based on House Resolution 598, calling for an online sabong investigation, in aid of legislation, and House Bill 6983, seeking to strengthen the role of the GAB in cockfighting operations.

Cockpit Owner Ricardo Magtuto cited that the CamSur Sports Arena shows a live video streaming of cockfights, but he assured the panel that these are shown within the cockpit area. He also said that some videos featured in the arena are derbies from other localities, including Metro Manila.

“Pwede silang [local government units] mag-issue ng video streaming license, pero within the vicinity lang or the area of responsibility. This is something that really has to be regulated. As far as I know, there are 75 cockpits already that are engaged in this online sabong business already, without authority or regulations from the government,” said Pineda.

In so far as the live-streaming is concerned, GAB’s position is that this should be regulated because live-streaming involves municipalities and not just one locality.

GAB legal division chief Ermar Benitez said they were concerned that if one event is streamed across the country, then there is a need to monitor the betting.

“That’s the only role left with the GAB. That is why we support very much the House bill because it already specifically provides what kind of regulation the national government can do through GAB,” said Benitez.

Magtuto said that currently, a 30-percent amusement tax is being charged on cockpit operators by the LGUs. Recently, there is a proposal which seeks to charge an additional three percent on all center bets and gate receipts. He proposed that this additional three percent be incorporated into the 30 percent amusement tax.

Mitra clarified that the Game Fowl Commission (GFC) has already been abolished. The residual functions and responsibilities of the commission were absorbed by GAB, he said.

He explained that licensing of cockpits and derbies previously fell under the GFC. Mitra pointed out that this is the reason why the GFC used to charge P200 or P300 per fight.

“So, all over the country, lahat po ng sabong, meron pong sine-set aside para sa GFC. Ngayon, when we assumed, we are appointed by the President, I made that announcement that wala nang dapat mangolekta niyan kasi abolished na nga ang GFC” he said.

Mitra revealed, however, that not a single cockpit remits to the GAB. “It’s supposed to be collected. Sa lahat po ng center bets, may binabawas na P200. Sinasabi nila sa GAB, sa Game Fowl Commission, wala po silang nire-remit sa amin, ni piso. Wala rin po kaming nireresibuhan. Pero kahit saang sabungan, sinasabi na meron,” he explained.

Oftentimes, the collection is given to the municipalities, barangays or even as salary for their manpower. “Wala pong nakukuha ang national government. Wala rin po kaming nire-remit sa Bureau of Treasury,” clarified Mitra.

Also present in the hearing were resource speakers from the Office of the Solicitor General, Manila Jockey Club, Inc., Metro Manila Turf Club, Inc., Philippine Racing Commission, Klub Don Juan de Manila, Metropolitan Association of Race Horse Owners, and Karera Station Association of the Philippines. — Monel Gonzales and Novel Paller

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