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Online Gambling Grows in Philippines, but is it on Steady Ground?

26 August 2017 by Devon Chappell

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s shocking reversal on his crack-down against online gambling in favor of a much more lenient regulation and taxation policy, makes one wonder that if there was a way for him to make legal money off of meth-addicted drug addicts, his “values” driven killing spree would screech to a halt.

The shift from last summer, when Duterte seemed willing to lump online gaming business owners into the same pile as the rest of the “enemies of the state” he’s targeted, to now when he spoke recently about how the best course of action was to “tax them” rather “than fight them” has been astounding and has cemented his reputation for being unpredictable.

Many argue that it was not because “you can’t stop them”, as Duterte stated, but because he realized what a financial blow it would be if he continued on his tirade against the online gambling industry within the Philippines. Not only that, but President Duterte has seemed to lock in on the potential to grow the industry even more in the area of regulating online casinos that only cater to non-Filipinos. In a single year the Philippines has registered and licensed 45 such online gambling companies and collected $58 million in taxes. This is at a rate of ten percent what the industry accumulates in revenue.

Even the Filipino real estate industry has received a boon due to President Duterte’s change of heart. In the first half of the year, online casino companies accounted for 30% of the office space being rented in Manila during that time, and in the second half that percentage doubled to 60% of all the new leases being signed. And it is reported that this year many developers will have rented 90 percent of their stock, which in turn, has begun to see an uptick in residential properties sales as well.

Even the Philippine stock market has seemed to buoy with the burgeoning of this newly “in favor” industry. But as many in the online gaming industry can attest, markets and governing bodies can be fickle and Duterte has already proven his volatility. The rug could easily be pulled out from beneath this quickly growing cottage industry taking formation around the relative acceptance of online gambling by the Duterte administration.

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