House approves legalization of online ‘sabong’

Published December 10, 2020, 5:15 PM

by Ben Rosario

Notwithstanding serious concerns over its adverse effects on the moral fiber of the Filipino society, total legalization of online sabong and off-site betting on cockfights has been approved by the House of Representatives.

The chamber, through the recommendation of the House Committee on Ways and Means, no longer delved on the objections raised by church leaders regarding the influence of gambling on the youth and families but concentrated on imposing taxes for on-line betting operations.

On Wednesday, congressmen approved on second reading House Bill 8065 providing for the imposition of taxes on off-site betting activities on locally licensed cockfights and derbies.  The measure amends Section 125 of the National Internal Revenue Code.

Prior to its approval by the ways and means panel chaired by Albay Rep. Joey Sarte-Salceda, HB 8065 was assailed by Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, who warned about the negative effects of sabong, whether online or not.

“This online sabong will never be blessing to our country, as it will only be source of problems in the community and division in the family,” Santos warned. 

Two opposition solons, namely Minority Leader and Abang Lingkod Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano and Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite stood during the plenary debates on the bill to air their respective concerns on the issue.

Interpellating sponsor and AAMBIS OWA Rep. Sharon Garin, Paduano warned of the danger of imposing taxes on the gross income of the gambling endeavor, pointing out that this might cover other profit derived from non-gaming portion of cockpits.

Paduano’s request for amendment was granted as the sponsor agreed that taxation should be limited to the gaming operations.

On the other hand, Gaite pointed out that while only local government units are granted the authority to license cockfights, the operation of on-line betting will go beyond the jurisdictional limits of the licensing LGU.

Thus, this would defeat the objectives of other LGUs who refuse to grant cockfighting licenses to prevent their constituents to engage in gambling.

The issue raised by Quezon City Rep. Jesus “Bong” Suntay over the manner of taxing online betting was also not addressed.

Suntay, a member of the House panel, appeared convinced that online sabong will be imposed a five percent of its gross receipts which is “similar to the tax imposed on POGOs  

POGOs, which exclusively cater to foreign bettors outside the Philippines, are currently slapped a 5% tax on gross bets under Republic Act No. 11494 or Bayanihan 2. 

Online sabong, on the other hand, is still unregulated and untaxed.   

Suntay, who also chairs the House Committee on Human Rights, said there are now numerous online sabong betting sites, noting their proliferation was due to the current pandemic and advent of digital technology.     

The solon said he supports calls for online betting taxation so that government can derive additional revenues from it.   

He stressed, however, that authorities should strictly regulate cockfighting operations as well as online betting platforms to ensure that minors will be protected and barred from participating.