SC asked to stop ‘online sabong’ in OTB stations

MANILA — A non-government organization on Tuesday filed before the Supreme Court (SC) a petition for mandamus to order the Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom) to direct all off-track betting (OTB) stations to prohibit the betting of online ‘sabong’ (cockfighting) in its premises.

“We are asking the Supreme Court to immediately compel Philracom to perform its mandate, that is, to protect our horseracing industry which has been a lucrative source of amusement tax revenue, by putting a stop to the illegal operation of online sabong in the OTBs,” Dr. Gilda Peralta, Liga ng Eksplosibong Pagbabago, Inc. (LEPI) secetary-general, said in the petition.

The LEPI said in their 19-page petition for mandamus that that the government is losing PHP350 million in tax revenues from the illegal scheme every year.

Based on the petition, there is nothing in the mandate of Philracom under Presidential Decree No. 420 that allows online gambling – such as online sabong – to be conducted in OTB stations.

“The conduct of online sabong in various OTB stations is patently illegal. More so, it had greatly prejudiced the horse- racing industry. Worst, the same had deprived, and is continuously depriving, the government of some PHP350 million of much needed revenues.

According to the group, about 90 percent of horseracing revenues are derived from the OTBs, hence the severe impact of allowing online sabong in these betting outlets which are supposedly exclusive for horseracing.

Thus, the group also asked the Court to direct the PRC to collect from those responsible the supposed revenue share of the government that was lost because of online sabong and to immediately remit the same to the National Treasury.

Peralta said that as a regulatory body, Philracom has all the powers to stop online sabong in the OTBs, but the agency has not done anything despite its oft-repeated mantra of protecting and regulating all matters pertaining to horse racing.

“The government is losing revenues because there is no clear mechanism to tax online sabong, and it has been eating into the revenues of horseracing since racing aficionados end up betting in sabong instead of horseracing when these two games are held simultaneously in the OTBs,” Peralta said.

“We have no other recourse but to go to the Supreme Court because there is much confusion as to the legality of online sabong, and the government stands to lose more as horseracing revenues go down along with the 25 percent in amusement taxes from horseracing, as a result of the proliferation of online sabong in the OTBs,” Peralta pointed out.