Online gambling can be a complicated business

A simmering row in the Philippines over online gambling permissions has become public over the weekend, with charges of favouritism being levelled by a frustrated Internet gambling operator battling with bureaucracy.

The Philippines Enquirer reports that an Internet cafe owner in Cebu City who wants to include Internet gambling in his offering is claiming that city government blocks to his application are unfair because another operator is a friend of a city councillor and has been given approval.

The row has its roots in a Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) Charter which requires that any Pagcor franchisee should ask for local government approval.

Eduardo Dagpin, a sales agent for Pagcor who has been operating since 2006, is seeking a Cebu City Council permission for the operation of two Internet casino stations in the city. But Cebu City Councilor Gerardo Carillo, vice chairman of the committee on laws, opposes the application and seems to have managed to bog it down in bureaucracy.

Carillo was not able to submit his opposition in last Wednesday's regular session of the council because he had yet to include in his report the existing ordinance that prohibits the operation of Internet casino gaming within the territorial jurisdiction of the city of Cebu. The councillor's motivation is allegedly concern that a successful application may impact the morals of Cebu citizens.

Dagpin's Internet gaming activities were placed on hold in August, and Pagcor still awaits a certificate saying the city council has given their blessing to his operations before it will lift the suspension, placing Dagpin between a rock and a hard place.

Complicating the process is uncertainty regarding the acceptability and legality of online gambling itself, with Councillor Edgardo Labella wanting his colleagues to re-examine the relevant ordinances to find out if the e-Casino is illegal or not.

"Regardless that (a gambling operation) is approved by Pagcor or not the local government should consider the moral side of it," Labella said.

Dagpin has questioned why he is being discriminated against when other operators had been quickly approved, including one who is a friend of Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña. That operator, who owns a 17-computer business, hotly denied any impropriety. Whilst admitting that the mayor was a friend, he said that he had seen a business opportunity, applied and been granted permission without the mayor's involvement.

"It is a legitimate business licensed by Pagcor," he told Cebu Daily News. "I don't know why we were allowed when others weren't."

Online gambling stations are not new to the region; Dennis Valdez, president of PhilWeb Corp., the principal enabler Internet manager of Pagcor, said there are already 108 e-casinos operating in the Philippines.

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