E-Sabong Could Be Bigger Philippine Gambling Scandal Than POGOs

In the Philippines, you can bet on almost anything online.

Despite the various domestic limitations, Philippine gambling is readily – and legally – available on the Internet.

If you know where to look.

So while you can’t bet sports online with MegaSportsWorld and probably don’t have the necessary “VIP” status to play real-money online casino games and online poker with domestic Manila venues, you do have other options at your disposal.

For example, the Philippine online sportsbooks and Philippine online casinos we recommend are safe and legal to use for all Filipino gamblers aged 18 and up, and there are no gambling laws in the islands that outlaw such operations.

And these sites have pretty much everything.

You can play online slots, online blackjack, online roulette, online baccarat, craps, keno, video poker, live poker games, live casino games, place bets on sports and horses and dogs, and more.

However, there is one Philippine gambling market these sites don’t support and probably never will: online cockfighting, or e-Sabong.

More than any other global gambling market, Philippine online sabong is hyper local and simply cannot be otherwise.

For one thing, the cockfights – while certainly organized when held in authorized and regulated cockpits – don’t offer enough lead time to allow odds to be posted on far-reaching websites.

This is especially true at non-dedicated websites that host betting lines on dozens or hundreds of sports (i.e. BetOnline Sportsbook, SportsBetting AG, etc.).

If Philippine cockfights were scheduled far ahead of time – with known matchups – this could change.

However, as is tradition, most cockfights aren’t arranged ahead of time at all. Often, the fights are agreed to just minutes before each contest, and the betting is fast and frenetic as a result.

Indeed, it’s a wonder that domestic Philippine e-Sabong operations have gone as smoothly as they have!

Of course, things could be going even more smoothly.

Aside from the technological hurdles (which have largely been met as well as can be expected), the industry is hampered by lots of outspoken activism in opposition of the practice.

While sabong is unquestionably the most prominent and popular cultural pastime in the Philippines, online sabong hasn’t been met with as much enthusiasm.

Many members of the Philippine Congress are opposed to online cockfighting, recently tabling the approval of a franchise application on behalf of Lucky 8 Star Quest, Inc.

While the measure didn’t stop the 25-year license from being passed in the end, the Senate has suspended further requests by other operators. As such, e-Sabong expansion is now effectively on hold.

Naturally, e-Sabong has also come up as a platform debate in the 2022 Philippines Presidential election cycle, with some candidates openly opposing the practice of online cockfighting.

The hobby is being blamed for an alleged rash of suicides in the country, and many anti-gambling lobbies claim that access to electronic sabong will do tremendous social harm to families and individuals affected by addiction.

But Philippine politicians aren’t the only ones opposed to eSabong.

Indeed, there is significant religious opposition to the pastime, too.

Just as local Catholic leaders oppose casino expansion in Boracay, so too do they oppose the proliferation of cockfighting to the online space.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of the Diocese of Caloocan – in his capacity as the new President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) – has publicly denounced e-Sabong legalization as “one of the most dangerous things” promulgated by the Philippine government in recent memory:

“This government says it cares about the future of young people and wants to save them from addiction. Anyone who associates addiction only with drugs has not really understood the nature of addiction as a mental health issue. …

The traditional sabong is at least available only for the kind of players who would go physically to a cockfighting arena, which is a very limited space, and usually for adults only. …

“This e-sabong, which, by the way, was unanimously granted a franchise by Congress, is online. Meaning, it can be accessed by anyone — yes, even by kids who have gotten quite used to online activities due to the pandemic.”

It remains unclear whether the recent legalization of e-Sabong via House Bill 10199 will lay the groundwork for more eSabong operators in the nation, and it’s perfectly conceivable (if unlikely) that Lucky 8 could see its license revoked with the new incoming government.

Just remember: If e-Sabong does go offline in the islands, it’s unlikely to be saved by the current slate of legal offshore sports betting sites.

Sabong is uniquely Filipino, and e-Sabong will live – or die – with the locals.