A Philippine lawmaker has introduced legislation that could lead to the formation of a domestic regulated online gambling market. On Monday, the opposition ACT-CIS party’s Rep. Samuel Pagdilao Jr. (pictured, in his former role as head of the nation’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) introduced House Bill 4540, which would authorize the country’s gaming regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to issue domestic online gambling licenses as well as to punish any company caught serving Philippine gamblers without such a license.
At things presently stand, the Philippines has a robust outward-looking online gambling industry based on licenses issued by the First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corporation, as authorized by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA). But First Cagayan’s licensees are forbidden from serving domestic customers. Rep. Pagdilao’s plan is to allow Pagcor to issue Internet Gaming Certificates (IGC) that would allow private operators to serve Filipinos, provided customers are 18 years of age or older.
HB 4540 doesn’t specify what forms of online gambling would be permitted in a regulated domestic market, defining ‘internet gaming’ only as “the placing of bets or wagers” involving “authorized internet games.” Pagdilao believes his bill would help curb illegal operators currently plying their trade in the country. Before he quit the police to enter politics, Pagdilao had roundly criticized court rulings that left the legality of domestic online gambling up in the air.
HB 4540 envisions stiff penalties for operators who serve Filipinos without an IGC or who allow minors to gamble online. Any licensee or employee of a licensed company found guilty of allowing minors to gamble online would face prison sentences of between five and 10 years and/or fines of between Php5m-10m (US $115k-230k). Similar penalties would apply to any parent or guardian who induces a minor to gamble online.
PAGCOR currently holds the sole right to offer online gambling within the Philippines via its eGames retail chain. Earlier this year, Dennis Valdes, president of e-gaming café operator PhilWeb, had suggested the country’s digital infrastructure wasn’t “robust enough” to support an online-only gambling business. In particular, Valdes suggested a dearth of qualified e-wallets and online payment processors would likely hinder growth of a domestic online market.