Are the Philippines on the Road to Legalizing Online Cockfighting Betting?

The Philippines have a long tradition of gambling on various events and games, and sabong, or cockfighting, is one example. Some might say that pitting one bird against another and arming them with razor-sharp blades is brutal and inhumane, but you can’t deny that the practice has been in the tradition and culture of the Philippines for ages.

Cockfighting is legal and can take place in licensed cockpits during special holidays and fiestas, as well on Sundays, and spectators can bet on the outcome of these ferocious yet thrilling fights. However, the global pandemic of the coronavirus has put a stop to the betting activity and closed down the cockpits. 

Not only cockfighting operations were hurt by the outbreak of the disease. Other gambling-related businesses have suffered as well, which prompted the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to ruminate on legalizing online sabong betting. 

The move was met with excitement by numerous fans around the country. It will legitimize streaming of cockfighting from vetted cockpit arenas, and punters will be able to place bets in a fair, safe, and legal way, as they would in regulated land-based facilities. 

Regulating e-sabong or online betting on cockfights will bring a stable revenue stream for both the operators and local governments, whose coffers were seriously damaged by the closure of Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs), forced by the outbreak of the coronavirus. 

What’s more, if cockfighting gets transferred to the online sphere, it will curtail the gatherings at cockpits and help with social distancing. 

To ensure no illegal cockfighting gets streamed online, PAGCOR needs to rely on help from authorities that need to apprehend the perpetrators swiftly. Otherwise, the revenue will go to illicit channels. The local governments can’t count on the taxes, which would otherwise be collected from the operators. 

Speaking of taxes, PAGCOR cut the fees for POGOs in half in a bid to keep them in the Philippines, despite the difficult situation in the gambling industry. It doesn’t seem to have worked much since the departure of POGOs keeps on happening. However, the licensed online betting on sabong may be the difference-maker and turn the tide for gambling in the Philippines. 

It is worth pointing out that the legislators have not yet confirmed that e-sabong will be regulated. It remains illegal, and the authorities urge people not to engage in any unlicensed forms of betting. 

On the other hand, PAGCOR has been issuing notices to operators to expect changes in future rules and regulations, which leaves enough room for speculation. 

It seems only natural that the government wants to exploit e-sabong as an option since many unauthorized cockpits have already been raided. If they offer operators a chance to legalize online betting on cockfights, it will dissuade people from wagering in these shady places and opt for legal sites instead. 

It remains to be seen if the central and local governments will take any immediate actions on the subject. Still, its potential benefits to the economy of the Philippines and the positive impact on the gambling market can’t be overstated.

Jan 11, 2021