Domondon: Alderman submits proposal to regulate gambling

OBSERVING that the City Government of Baguio in the exercise of its police power can regulate games of chance sanctioned by the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), as well as other types of gambling operating in the locality, City Councilor Edgar Avila has filed a proposed legislative measure aimed at regulating and governing Electronic games (E-games), Bingo and other games of chance in the City of Baguio.

In justifying the said proposed regulatory measure Councilor Avila pointed out that it is a reality that games of chance, such as E-bingo, operating in the city and allowed by PAGCOR could not be prevented legally by reason of previous legal precedence that has ripened into a property right for the operators in the city. He added that “since no government can totally eradicate gambling, the best option is proper regulation”, adding that “all is not lost however because the Government of Baguio in the exercise of its police power - as provided for in Republic Act 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991 - can regulate and govern the operation of establishments operating PAGCOR sanctioned games; and while the PAGCOR Charter allows E-games the legal E-gaming operators must be subjected to close scrutiny and control by the city”.

Under the proposed regulatory ordinance a Code of Practice for Responsible Gambling with the corresponding penalties for its violation will be established and fixed term special permits shall be required and issued by the city for Electronic Casinos (E-Casinos), E-bingo, cockfights, online sports betting and other similar types of online gambling. The proposal also intends to establish detailed and more stringent application procedures to be followed in order to discourage new operators who intend to apply here in the city of Baguio.

Councilor Avila in further explanation as contained in his proposal said that, “changing lifestyles and new technology ushered in a new gambling phenomenon called ‘online gaming’ and which necessitate tougher safeguards and rules against the toll of gambling on our residents’ welfare particularly the youth.” He likewise pointed out that E-gambling debases neighborhoods, leaves problem gamblers unaided and deprives government of revenues as well as breeding corruption, tax evasion and other serious crimes.

As contained in the proposed ordinance a special committee on games and amusement for the Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council) shall be established composed of three representatives from the majority party and/or coalition and two representatives from the minority party and/or coalition with the chairman selected from among the members of the committee. The said committee shall be tasked to receive and approve applications for e-gaming and investigate complaints against an e-gaming establishment particularly for violations of the regulatory ordinance.

In order to ensure strict compliance with the ordinance a Responsible Gambling Advisory Council shall also be established composed of the City Mayor, the Vice Mayor, the City Councilor in charge of the special committee on games and amusement and two representatives from church based organizations and/or non-government organizations.

Finally, as proposed any violation of the regulation shall merit a five thousand peso fine for the first offense, while for the second offense a penalty of 30 days suspension of operation shall be meted out and a third offense shall result in the cancellation or revocation of the fixed term special permit granted the operator.
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