A Philippine senator has introduced a bill that would ban almost all online gambling in the country and impose severe penalties on those engaged in online gambling activities.
According to GMA networkSenate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva introduced Bill 1281, also known as the Anti-Online Gambling Act, in response to recent reports of kidnapping and human trafficking cases related to the POGO and e-Sabong industries in the Philippines.
Licensed e-Sabong operations have already been suspended after a string of unsolved disappearances earlier this year, while PAGCOR chief Alejandro Tengco warned last week that if POGO operators don’t address the issues of kidnapping and human trafficking, the entire POGO industry could disappear.
In filing his Anti-Online Gambling Act this week, Villanueva said these cases “demonstrate that the social costs of gambling are too high — bankruptcy, broken families, and criminal activity, among others.” POGO, he added, “has resulted in, among other things, increasing crime, including prostitution, and an increased threat of money laundering.
“The bill aims to prohibit online gambling and the placing of bets or wagers over the internet or any form of online gambling activity to prevent further deterioration of morals and values, encourage people to work instead of relying on a game of chance, to stop addiction and save lives.”
Under the law, anyone who places, receives, or otherwise knowingly transmits any wager or wager in a manner involving the use of the Internet in whole or in part shall be punished with imprisonment from one to six months or a fine ranging from Php 100,000 to Php 500,000 ( US$1,745 to US$8,725).
Companies and their senior officers face fines of Php 500,000 and a maximum penalty of five years in prison. If passed, the law would also repeal the government’s power to regulate online gambling.
The proposed law comes after PAGCOR announced on Saturday that it had ordered the closure of two POGOs and revoked the license of one, following the rescue of more than 140 foreign workers detained against their will.