A House of Representatives’ panel yesterday approved a measure proposing the creation of a fiscal regime for electronic sabong (cockfighting) and other legally-operated online betting activities to raise more revenues for the government’s coronavirus disease (Covid-19) response.
The House Ways and Means Committee approved a substitute bill to House Bill No. 7919, that proposes to impose a tax regime on offsite betting activities on locally-licensed games to clarify the national government’s share of their revenues and to ensure that the government can look into their operations.
Under the bill, the proposed tax shall be 5 percent of gross revenues derived from offsite betting activities on locally licensed games, and shall not be in lieu of taxes required by the local government units, and regulatory fees and charges imposed by government agencies.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, author of the bill, noted that this provision is consistent with the bill’s intention not to overstep the authority of local government units.
“The operations are already legal, by virtue of local ordinances, but the electronic aspect of it is a legal gray area. Because of the ambiguity, we are unable to levy national taxes on these activities or look into their operations. My bill addresses that concern,” Salceda said.
The bill shall also empower the Bureau of Internal Revenue to accredit and inspect totalizators and other gambling devices used in the collection, consolidation, and recording of wagers made in offsite betting activities on locally licensed games to establish transparency and accountability in these activities.
Gaming operators of the regulated activities shall be required to specify “Offsite Betting Activities on Locally Licensed Games” in disclosures and documentation required by the BIR and other regulatory government agencies and instrumentalities.
“This measure is consistent with my view that all gambling activities that the law allows should be highly beneficial to the government’s fiscal position. Otherwise, what is the point of allowing them?” Salceda said.
Salceda said that added regulatory oversight requirements will help the government rein in these activities whenever necessary.
“It is already there. It is already legal in several cities. We should just benefit from it because the government needs funds to fight Covid-19. There should also be safeguards so that the government can monitor it,” he said.
Salceda argued that without a national government share and without national government regulations, it’s a “free-for-all” at the local level.
“That’s never good when you’re talking about gaming, an activity with valid public concerns,” Salceda said.*PNA