Philippine Government Turns Cold On Net Betting

11 August 2000
Is the Philippines' first online casino, SAGE Casino, on course to crash? News of SAGE's venture into virtual gambling was trumpeted far and wide just a few weeks ago after the casino was granted an exclusive five-year license through the government-owned and operated Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor). In a strange twist of events, however, reports indicate that even a signed license is no guarantee of authority to operate a virtual casino. Instead, SAGE is fighting to maintain its license following an appeal by Philippine legislators to the Supreme Court to prevent the site's launch.

"Gambling, legalized or illegal, is a parasitic enterprise," Robert Jaworksi, chairman of the Senate committee on games, amusements and sports, told the South China Morning Post. He added that Pagcor's charter "clearly bars Internet gambling." Jaworski is seeking a temporary restraining order to stop SAGE Casino from going live online. His office has reportedly received support from six of the nation's 24 senators.

SAGE has agreed to abide by any decision handed down from the Supreme Court, although company President Johnny Antillon believes the Senate is unlikely to shut them down. Antillon also told the SCMP that the firm worked very hard to ensure their contract with Pagcor was "obtained scrupulously and openly and very fairly."

The company entered into a memorandum of agreement with Pagcor in 1998 and worked for more than a year toward obtaining the license, which carries both Pagcor's chair Alice Reyes and the then-Philippines President Fidel Ramos signature.

Full online operation of SAGE Casino is set to begin in September.