A Battle Erupts in the Philippines

30 October 2000
A Philippine court has prevented the closing of Sage Casino, an online casino operated by Sport and Games Entertainment Corp. under license from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (the government gambling regulatory body), despite President Joseph Estrada's order to shut it down.

The President ordered the close of most Philippine gambling operations after a provincial governor testified earlier this month that he had paid the President kickbacks from gambling and tobacco taxes. The vast number of gaming licenses issued under Estrada's leadership, particularly to his friends added to the scandal.

Last week Estrada wrote to Pagcor chair Alice Reyes, "You are hereby directed to take immediate steps to close down all Pagcor facilities and outlets in jai-alai, on-line bingo and Internet casino gaming." Additionally, the president suggested that Pagcor should get help from local police to carry out his orders within 48 hours.

While most gambling operations are complying with the order, Pagcor officials warn that some operators could file suit for being unfairly shut down. The officials point out that contracts can be cancelled only for violating contract terms, something that the companies haven't done. President Estrada's staff, however, maintains that the government can order the closure of legal gambling sites under national interest and public welfare concerns.

Philippine residents are less concerned about gambling than they are about the corruption charges leveled at President Estrada, one source explained. Nonetheless, the President is attempting to gain support from the church and other groups by attacking the gambling issue.