Stop e-sabong

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

They say a man has at least one of these three vices, or should I say, weaknesses. If left unchecked, any one of these can lead to his downfall. These are women, alcohol, and gambling. I have none of those weaknesses. But there is a fourth vice; lying about not having any of those three vices.

Kidding aside, I’m sure that of the three, I’m least attracted to gambling. The possibility of a windfall of cash has never appealed to me. I mean there are days when money comes in easily at less effort, and that’s good. There are days that it takes much hard work to earn money, and that’s also good. But like Ram Singh of the Indian fairy tale, I frown at the mention of buried treasure or undeserved wealth. There’s something in it that just doesn’t feel right.

There’s nothing wrong with gambling as a form of entertainment. That’s why it has been categorized as a leisure and tourism activity. Gambling has also become part of our mainstream culture since the colonial times.

However, the dangers of unchecked gambling are real. When people view gambling as a source of income or cash windfall, and when the government views gambling as a source of much-needed revenue, that’s when everything goes south. Insecurity and desperation take over at the thought of getting over a personal or national crisis.

E-sabong or the remote wagering of bets in live cockfights is one such desperate move. The popularity of e-sabong gained traction during this pandemic. But the government quickly learned that it can be a reliable source of revenue during this economic crisis. E-sabong has now grown into a ?50 billion industry in the country.

But at what cost? Gambling takes from society more than it ever gives the government in terms of revenue. Officials say e-sabong is being regulated by state-run Pagcor anyway. Define regulation. In this case, regulation is defined as issuing licensees, getting a share of the earnings, and then looking away.

There was a report last week that a man who incurred a debt of close to a million pesos due to e-sabong gambling took his own life, leaving behind a wife and two children. It was also reported the other day that a mother sold her baby for adoption for ?45,000 to pay for her e-sabong debts. These are not isolated incidents, mind you. The Senate has also recently probed into cases of “sabungeros” going missing, with calls for the suspension of e-sabong licenses.

Studies show that online gambling poses additional risks for harm, particularly for those predisposed to gambling. Its constant availability, easy access and ability to bet for uninterrupted periods make it very potent for addiction. It’s like injecting steroids into your already harmful gambling habit. “The use of digital forms of money appears to lead to increased gambling and losses, particularly for problem gamblers, as people feel that they are not spending ‘real’ money,” wrote Sally M. Gainsbury in the Technology and Addiction Journal (2015).

If you have one of those e-wallets commonly used nowadays, you can log into an e-sabong platform literally in seconds. Yes, it’s that easy. Just to know what I’ll be writing about, I tried it the other day and quickly got out after winning ?88 and losing ?100 in two games, which gave me a total net loss of ?12.

It was easy for me to stop because it just happened that I’m not really into gambling, but so many of our people are. And e-sabong just made it easier for them to destroy themselves with this vice.


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