Philippines investigates cockfighting webcam as senate considers tax bill

Two cocks fighting with audience in the background

Two cocks fighting with audience in the backgroundThe Philippines is racing to set up a legal framework for online cockfighting. But until everything is ready and the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) gives the go-ahead, local authorities are trying to hunt down those currently offering what’s locally called e-sabong.

The House committee on ways and means have approved a substitute tax bill for online cockfights and derbies. While the previous bill would create transparency around cockfights for the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), this one specifically calls for a tax equivalent to 5% based on gross receipts from offsite betting activities on locally-licensed cockfights and derbies.

In the measure, “offsite betting activities on locally-licensed cockfights and derbies” are defined as cockfighting activities that involve placing, acceptance, and facilitation of wagers through remote or electronic means and licensed by local government units. It excludes offerings provided by either PAGCOR or the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

This provides a clearer bill, should it become a law, to legalize, supervise and tax online cockfighting offerings going forward. But with them still existing in a legal grey area, local authorities are still cracking down.

In the Janiuay municipality of Iloilo province, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) put a stop to cockfight operations. DILG-Iloilo director Teodora Sumagaysay asked Mayor Bienvenido Margarico “for an explanation as to the purpose of the camera inside the cockpit to be submitted within three days.” A webcam was found in the cockpit during a November 13 search.

The mayor confirmed the cockfighting derby had obtained a special permit to operate, but has not yet provided an explanation for the webcam, or if remote betting was being taken.

This has resulted in the province ordering police offers to be present at all cockfights going forward. These authorities should make sure there are regular inspections, and prevent live audience during the Covid-19 pandemic, or any remote and online audiences until PAGCOR gives the ok.

Should online cockfighting get a legal ok to go forward, it could seriously help the government’s coffers. BIR collected P13.7 million ($280,000) from cockfights in 2019, and that was without a 5% take of revenue, or online action.