eSabong ban impacts livelihood of 3.2 million Filipinos

More than two months after its ban, the effect of online cockfighting operations or eSabong has impacted the livelihood of about 3.2 million Filipinos that used to come from the various businesses built around this industry.

Elvira Tan

Aside from the employees of licensed eSabong operators, many agricultural and blue-collar workers from business like commercial farm and backyard breeders, gamefowl buyers, feeds producers and veterinary services have been experiencing direct negative impact when their main source of liverlihood was suddenly put to a halt.

On the other hand, adjacent micro and small enterprises like sari-sari stores that used to benefit during cockfighting derbies have seen their businesses dwindle.

Online betting stalls that hired workers during the popularity of the game have found themselves unemployed since May.

Among those severely affected are employees of Elvira Tan whom she had to let go after the ban was enforced. “Yung mga tauhan ko. Walo sila. Lahat tinanggal ko na kasi ano pa ibabayad ko sa kanila,” said Tan, who owns an online betting stall along Quirino Avenue in Quezon City.

“Wala, hikahos talaga sila. Kung makikita nyo lang halos hindi na sila kumakain, kukurutin talaga puso nyo. Naawa ako kasi wala naman sila ginawang masama o nilabag na batas tapos sila ngayon nagdudusa,” she shares.

At its height, the eSabong industry is estimated to generate PHP650 million per month in revenue for PAGCOR. At least PHP1.37 billion was collected from the seven licensed eSabong operators from January to March 15, 2022. When eSabong was shut down, PAGCOR projected a revenue loss of up to PHP5 billion for 2022.

Filipinos without jobs has reached 2.93 million in May, higher than 2.76 million in April according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Former President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the termination of eSabong last May 3.

According to Ellaine Gorobao, HR Manager of Lucky 8 Star Quest which is one of the seven eSabong operators licensed by PAGCOR, the company was forced to retrench 350 of their employees without benefit of 30 days notice as they complied with the suspension order. “The sudden order of PAGCOR to stop our operations immediately caught us by surprise. Stop operations agad-agad. Wala ng trabaho bigla. Wala man lang 30 day notice.,” Gorobao said.

Before ending his 6-year term, however, Duterte expressed ‘regret’ over his decision on eSabong, even encouraging lawmakers to re-assess its possible resumption. “eSabong gives the government 642 million pesos a month. In one year, it gives the government billions,” Duterte said. The country has already lost nearly 2-billion pesos in revenue, which could have been used to finance our Covid response, education, infrastructure among others.