Philippines’ President to ban online gambling

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
Global Gaming returns to Sweden

Four months after easing up on his planned crackdown on the online gambling industry, Philippines’ firebrand president Rodrigo Duterte has had another change of heart.

In a speech after signing the 2017 national budget on Thursday, Duterte announced that he is “ordering the closure of all online gambling [firms]… All of them. They have no use.”

The president did not elaborate but it is understood that the closure order was meant for all online gambling firms. Following Duterte’s announcement, eGames operator PhilWeb immediately saw its share price drop 30.25 percent to PHP8.30 (USD0.17).

Duterte voiced opposition to the domestic ‘online’ industry shortly after taking office in June, which led to PhilWeb shutting down its 286 Games cafes. At the time, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) CEO Domingo said the “strong and repeated pronouncement of the president” had left the state regulator with “no choice” but to scrap PhilWeb’s license.

PAGCOR announced a few weeks later that it would allow offshore gaming in the country, which, in a way, was “meant to safeguard the welfare of the Filipinos at the same time meet the agency’s revenue targets to help fund the government’s nation-building programs.”

The president seems to have had another change of mind though as the Philippine government continues to hunt down Macau-based gambling tycoon Jack Lam on charges of bribery and economic sabotage.

During his speech, Duterte pointed out that the government has no mechanism to regulate the online gambling industry, saying, “It’s online in the Philippines; but the betting outside, we have no mechanism against it.”

The president specifically called out the “weak leadership” at the Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA), which issues licenses to online gambling operators that set up shops in PEZA special economic zones, according to Rappler.

Shutting down the entire online gambling industry in the country would mean a loss of an estimated PHP10 billion (USD200 million) in annual revenues for PAGCOR. There is no word yet if Duterte’s order affects the companies that already have PAGCOR licensees.

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