Online cockfighting surge in the Philippines sees billions wagered monthly

cockfighting
  • Cockfighting, the bloodsport that pits two roosters to fight to the death, is generating over a billion dollars in revenue for licensed operators.
  • Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc., which hosts round-the-clock matches, attracts about 60 billion pesos (approximately $1.16 billion) in monthly bets.
  • A scandal involving the disappearance of 34 rooster handlers has attracted public scrutiny and prompted a legislative inquiry into the Philippine Senate.
  • Filipino legislators recommended a temporary suspension of cockfighting, which President Duterte rejected.
  • The government-owned corporation that authorizes gambling in the country, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, reportedly collects as much as 640 million pesos (approximately $12.2 million) per month from licensed cockfighting operators.

Cockfighting has now become a billion-dollar industry in the Philippines months after going online. 

Considered taboo and illegal in many countries, the bloodsport that pits two roosters to fight to the death is a popular pastime dating back hundreds of years in the country.

While it has waned in popularity over the past few decades, it has made a recent resurgence after the local government allowed operators to make betting accessible online. 

Online cockfighting operator Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc., which hosts round-the-clock matches daily, attracts about 60 billion pesos (approximately $1.16 billion) in monthly bets.

A recent controversy, however, involving the disappearance of 34 rooster handlers has attracted public scrutiny and prompted a legislative inquiry at the Philippine Senate.

During the inquiry, Lucky 8 Star Quest owner Charlie “Atong” Ang told legislators that the company collects a 5% fee from gamblers, which amounts to about 3 billion pesos (approximately $57 million) in monthly revenue.

Lucky 8 Star operates the arenas where some of the missing persons were purportedly seen last.

Citing regulatory framework gaps and other factors, 23 senators signed Senate Resolution No. 996, a measure urging President Rodrigo Duterte to order a suspension on the cockfighting operations.

Senator Francis Tolentino, who called cockfighting a part of the Philippines’ “national identity,” suggested that cockfighting arenas should be reopened to end online cockfighting operations.

In response to the senate resolution, the government issued a memorandum that contradicts the resolution, allowing the gambling operations to continue. 

President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic managers have reportedly advised him to leave the investigations to the police. 

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), a government-owned corporation that authorizes gambling in the country, reportedly collects as much as 640 million pesos (approximately $12.2 million) per month from licensed cockfighting operators. 

Pagcor Chairman Andrea Domingo expressed concerns that the government will lose massive revenue if online cockfighting is stopped. 

“This is not an easy thing to do. It has a very strong effect on revenue generation,” she was quoted as saying. 

According to Philippine Senator Franklin Drilon, the collected revenue is a “pittance” compared to the gross income the operators generate. 

Senior Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Jason Baker, however, stresses that the online cockfighting industry is “cruel and unethical.”

“Birds are mutilated, injected with steroids, and forced to fight until their unnecessary death,” he told Bloomberg.

Ang, on the other hand, has referred to the sport as “honorable,” claiming that it is not going anywhere anytime soon.

“They say gambling is bad, but why are casinos, liquor and cigarettes legal? It’s because they’re paying taxes,” he said. 

Featured Image Vice Asia

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