Legal e-Sabong To Go Offline As Investigation Into Kidnappings Ramps Up

As the 2022 Philippine Presidential election approaches, one of the chief topics of debate – at least in the gambling realm – has been that of eSabong.

While sabong is largely considered a beloved national sport and isn’t at all controversial in the Philippines, e-Sabong – that is, online cockfighting – is the subject of considerable community concern.

Many political candidates are running in opposition of widespread online sabong, and it now seems – unfortunately – that they’ll be more able to easily sell their fears as founded.

Those fears have largely been predicated on the idea that increased access to gambling – such as online gambling – will necessarily lead to an increase in crime in any given barangay.

This is viewed as especially concerning in domestic markets where unscrupulous operators and black market loan sharks will extend players “credit,” which is something that doesn’t happen at legal Philippine online casinos (as these sites require you to deposit first, and local lenders won’t get involved since they have no under-the-table relationship with the operators).

Of course, such expressed concerns are often overblown, and – despite the most recent events fueling the anti-e-Sabong narrative – we still think that’s the case.

Nevertheless, when such predictions “come true,” the cases are always given greater credence and give greater pause.

That’s why, on Monday, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte – once a begrudging advocate for eSabong and its revenue-generating potential – expressed his support for a current Senate resolution calling on PAGCOR to suspend all active e-Sabong licenses in the Philippines.

The licenses to be suspended include those for the following eSabong operators:

  • Belvedere Vista Corp.
  • Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc.
  • Visayas Cockers Club Inc.
  • Jade Entertainment and Gaming Technologies Inc.
  • Newin Cockers Alliance Gaming Corp.
  • Philippine Cockfighting International Inc.
  • Golden Buzzer Inc.

Note: It should be noted that none of these operators is accused of committing any crime or participating in any malfeasance. 

If the measure is passed, the suspension would remain in effect at least until the current Senate investigations are concluded.

So, what’s being investigated, exactly?

The Manila Times summarizes the issue thus:

“[We] have a case of 31 missing sabungeros (cockfighters). They are believed to have been abducted. Are they still alive? The first case reportedly happened in April last year, shortly after the first two e-sabong operators were granted licenses by Pagcor. The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs on February 24 started an inquiry into the alleged kidnappings and other matters related to e-sabong.”

To be clear, not all of these kidnappings happened at the same time. Rather, these took place periodically throughout the nation over the last 10 months or so.

Still, with the common thread being online cockfighting, that association is hard to discount.

While the missing cockfighter phenomenon is the biggest catalyst for the current crackdown on the eSabong industry, it unfortunately isn’t the only one.

On February 13 – just two weeks ago – five policemen (four active duty, one retired) were arrested after surrendering to authorities. The group is charged with murdering councilwoman Ma. Louela and Pedro Baringui-an.

That case may be unrelated to eSabong (though there are implications out there that it was cursorily related to the sport, as the victims were robbed of substantial monies by the perpetrators,  who are alleged to be known gamblers).

However, there’s one case that’s still prominent in the public consciousness and is most assuredly related to eSabong (again per the Times):

“Laguna PPat. Glenn Angoluan…robbed several convenience stores in order to pay his growing debt. The debt reportedly had reached about P1 million and stemmed from the policeman’s addiction to off-site betting on cockfights aired online, the so-called e-sabong.”

As a result, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos has ordered all unit commanders – nationwide – to inspect the personal mobile devices of all police to ensure that none of them is participating in eSabong or related activities.

It is likely that the eSabong ban will be signed off on by the Senate, though it’s less clear how long that ban will last once the investigation into the kidnappings is concluded.

It could be many months – and perhaps even a year or more – until e-Sabong is relaunched if it’s indeed shut down. And as you know, eSabong is literally the only sport not covered by the legal offshore Philippines sportsbooks serving the nation.

But hey, cockfighting’s better in person, anyway.