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In its move to address the “social and moral impact of gambling,” the city passed three ordinances to regulate gambling in Valenzuela. These were all authored by Valenzuela City 1st District Councilor Ricardo Riacrr Enriquez.
Under Ordinance No. 1105 which was approved on June 5, 2023, POGOs are prohibited within the territorial jurisdiction of Valenzuela.
Those found violating the said ordinance will be fined ₱200,000 to ₱300,000 and face imprisonment of no more than a year.
Under Ordinance No. 1107, the operation, new applications, and establishments of online gambling and Small Town Lottery will also be temporarily banned in the city. This prohibition will last for five years as the city review and evaluate the city’s zoning ordinance.
When asked why the ban was just temporary, Valenzuela City Mayor Weslie “Wes” Gatchalian said they “respect Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation” and “do not intend to step into their jurisdiction on the national level.”
Gatchalian, however, clarified that the existing registered businesses in Valenzuela can continue their operations and will be allowed to renew their business permits.
There are now nine registered businesses operating bingo and online games in the city, contributing around P1 million to the city’s revenue.
The City Council also passed an ordinance that prohibits all forms of illegal gambling within its city.
“The purpose of this ordinance is to safeguard the well-being of all Valenzuelanos by protecting them from the vile and harmful effects of illegal gambling in various forms,” Ordinance No. 1108 reads.
This prevents any person, whether natural or juridical, to participate, bet, engage, take part, establish, operate, manage, finance, or maintain any illegal gambling or unauthorized activities.
An individual who violates the provisions of Ordinance No. 1108 will be fined from P1,000 to P5,000. President, manager, owner, area manager, and supervisor, meanwhile, who would violate the said ordinance will have to pay P20,000 to P50,000. Violators may also be imprisoned for no more than a year.
One of the common venues of gambling are wakes for the dead, where some of the collected money from bets were given to the family of the dead. To curtail gambling activities, Gatchalian said they provided at least P7,000 in burial assistance to the residents of the city.
In September 2022, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno expressed the need to discontinue POGOs due to its “social cost.”
Industry estimates show that POGOs bring in a whopping P551 billion in revenues to the economy yearly. Businesses around POGO sites have also become somewhat dependent on them for income.
However, POGOs were forced to shut down in March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with their workers returning to China. – with reports from Ralf Rivas/Rappler.com