A HOUSE of Representatives committee on Tuesday approved in principle a bill that seeks to tax off-site betting involving cockfights and other electronic gambling to fund the government’s pandemic response.

“The operations of online betting on cockfighting are authorized by local ordinances,” Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente Salceda, who authored the bill and heads the ways and means committee, said in a statement.

“Because of the digital shift, there are now electronic betting operations on such games. But the electronic aspect of it is a gray area, even though the airwaves are national property,” he added.

Mr. Salceda said national taxes had not been levied on the practice because of the ambiguity. His House Bill 7919 will change the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997.

Under the measure, gross revenue from off-site betting activities would be taxed 5%, in lieu of taxes required by local governments and regulatory fees imposed by government agencies.

The measure excludes games and activities allowed by law to be performed by government gaming authorities such as the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

The Local Government Code allows local governments to regulate cockpit operations and commercial breeding of game fowls.

Mr. Salceda earlier said the code did not anticipate the limits of these powers in the case of electronic betting on such activities. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza