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Opinion

Smuggled Ferraris & online sabong

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Yesterday was the first in the longest time that I had a chance to dine with a few of those motor heads and it’s interesting what pops up in the middle of dinner. While we were talking of doing our first trip for 2022, the mobile phone of an affluent attendee pinged and lo and behold, there was an image of a Ferrari “on sale.” Yes, it was a special offer, according to our friend, who educated us that the car being offered normally costs P35 to 38 million with taxes fully paid. This Ferrari “on sale” was from the gray market and was available for only P23 million.

As more and more questions were asked by the boys, we learned that an estimated 45 to 50 gray market Ferraris are currently in the local market on top of other brands such as luxury models of Mercedes Benz, BMW, McLaren and Lamborghini. Word is that two congressmen, along with a third buddy, are the operators. All other competitors either pay through the nose on taxes or get their imports smashed by a backhoe for show!

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For purposes of transparency, allow me to go on record that I breed fighting chickens but I have not sold or fought any of them since I restarted my hobby four years ago. What I am writing here are the sentiments of sabungeros in the country about the unfair state of government restrictions while endorsing online sabong.

Not many are aware of the fact that the Pagcor and the IATF are unwittingly, directly or indirectly, creating a gambling monopoly for “online sabong”. Many sabungeros speculate that this monopoly of the sport generates hundreds of millions a day, causes suspicions of bribery and corruption to protect franchises in Congress as well as regularly leading to minors and addicted bettors getting into huge debts and some ending in suicides or sudden disappearance.

After a year and a half of patiently waiting for cockpits and cockfights to somehow resume, many breeders and fighters as well as cockpit owners are now convinced that government officials in the IATF are totally clueless, don’t care or are avoiding the issue on how to allow the resumption of operations of cockpits. Ironically, around two to three groups of online sabong operators have been “allowed” via a Pagcor franchise or with a “blind eye” to operate minus the crowds.

The system is like running a private cockpit bubble where you house handlers and provide space for their roosters. People are tested for COVID-19 and are not allowed to leave the premises for the duration of a tournament if it’s a derby, or once your fights are finished, you leave but are not allowed to return until the next scheduled event.

I’ve been told that on some occasions, fighters line-up or “naka pila” for hours until it’s their turn to enter the ring. This being the case, the IATF cannot argue against allowing cockpits to operate on a limited and highly restricted manner since the business model already exists. As the saying goes: “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”

I reached out to a Pagcor official to discuss responsible online gambling as well as online sabong but I was told that the person in charge did not want to talk about the subject but would be available if my inquiry was a matter of personal interest or if I wanted to get into online sabong! That was tragic, given the fact that we reached out to them to pick up on their CSR message on responsible online gambling!

I don’t know if people in government simply don’t want to rock the boat or are part of a conspiracy because no one in Congress has taken up the cause. Sabungeros are even vilifying a party-list congressman who promised to represent them but has since then been singing “Silent Night” while participating in the online fights.

After a year and a half, it is highly suspicious that two to three groups have a monopoly on online sabong while thousands of cockpits in the country that used to generate business and tax money for LGUs are languishing because of IATF prohibitions. Cockfighting, as I have pointed out in past articles, involves hundreds of millions of pesos in investments for farm property rentals, development, employment, pharmaceutical and feed manufacturing, as well as small mom & pop businesses in food and related services and covers every region in the Philippines as well as some export of fighting cocks to the region and parts of the Middle East.

So far, the only thing that has saved the sport and the industry has actually been the online sabong operators who buy up thousands of roosters for their daily fight schedules, but their operations are too restrictive and exclusive that majority of breeders and fighters can’t afford their level of bets or are not in the area of operations of the online operators.

Another cause of concern is that while minimum bets for fighters are relatively high, the current system has no filters or checks that would prevent minors from enrolling and betting. Many veterans are suggesting to the operators to please raise the online registry fee to somewhere between P1,500 up to P3,000 in order to discourage or prevent people who earn minimum wage along with minors from being able to participate with online sabong.

There is not much we can say or do about gambling, given that the biggest gambling operator in the country is the government, so the best we can try is to make sure that their policies and prohibitions are fair to all and safeguard minors, the poor and the ignorant.

I, for one, hope that the IATF and the Pagcor will finally recognize and address this unfair and apparent “state-sponsored gambling monopoly” on online sabong and begin to open up the cockpits for enthusiasts and investors in their respective communities.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

FERRARI SABONG
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