THE PASIG City government is banning offshore gaming operators and other online gambling businesses through a local ordinance approved on December 15, with existing establishments given until end-2023 to close shop.

Pasig City Mayor Victor Ma. Regis “Vico” N. Sotto, in a tweet on Tuesday, announced that he has signed City Ordinance No. 55, which revokes the local government-issued permits of companies operating online casinos, e-games, e-sabong, e-bingo outlets, online poker, computer gaming stations, as well as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO).

Affected establishments are given a period of one year to close down their operations.

Listed businesses under Resolution No. 92, series of 2020 that have previously been granted licenses to operate can renew their business permits during the January 2023 renewal period and will be valid until December 31, 2023.

No new permits will be issued, based on the ordinance.

Violators of the ordinance will pay a fine of P5,000 or be jailed for one year, or both, upon discretion of the court.

The city ordinance, authored by Councilor Simon Gerard R. Tantoco, chair of the  Committee on Games and Amusement, states that online gambling establishments “undermine the social, moral, and economic growth and development of our society,” and has threatened the city’s safety and security.

It also indicated that there have been verified reports on the proliferation of online gaming in Pasig City, namely offshore gaming, online casinos, e-games, and e-bingo outlets, including computer gaming stations and software for gaming for a fee.

“While we have seen the social ills of these forms of gambling (have you heard of the mother who pawned her child?), that’s not all,” Mr. Sotto said on his Twitter account, citing the case of a mother who pawned her own child four times to pay for gambling debts.

During the city’s flag ceremony at the Pasig City hall on Monday, Mr. Sotto said corruption from POGO-related operations was also one of the reasons for approving the city ordinance. “We found out that they have an annual budget for our officials,” Mr. Sotto said, citing how operators allot a budget to pay the city government to ensure permit renewal in the city.

“I take it as a personal insult when there are ‘alleged’ offers of bribes every permit renewal season. If their operations are legitimate, why should there be placements like these?” Mr. Sotto said on Twitter.

Pasig City, located in the capital region Metro Manila, was declared the “Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit” in the Highly Urbanized Cities category by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in October. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz