For the last 14 years, e-Games outlets have given adult residents in the Philippines a popular form of entertainment. Much like internet casino cafes, visitors can enter, sit in front of a computer screen and play gambling amusements for real money; everything from slot machines and video poker, to blackjack, baccarat and other popular casino games.
These e-Games outlets are operated by PhilWeb Corp, but are owned by the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), the nation’s regulator of all things gambling related. Now, thanks to the anti-online gambling stance of President Rodrigo Duterte, the entire industry may come to a screeching halt.
Back in July, during the new political leader’s very first cabinet meeting, President Duterte declared that he would put a stop to online gambling. Shares in PhilWeb have fallen a staggering 70% since then, and the situation isn’t getting any better.
PhilWeb License Won’t Be Renewed
Despite PhilWeb’s assertion that e-Games outlets are not the same as online gambling, Philippines regulators have confirmed that the company’s operating license will not be renewed when it expires two days from now on Wednesday, August 10, 2016.
“We won’t cancel it but we won’t renew it,” Pagcor CEO Andrea Domingo said today.
PhilWeb’s stock dropped 44% when the Philippine Stock Exchange opened this morning, and is currently poised to strike the lowest closing point in nearly two years. Dennis Valdes, President of PhilWeb Corp, has offered no comment on the situation as yet.
E-Games Outlets Not Online Gambling
Since President Duterte began his campaign to obliterate online gambling, PhilWeb has maintained their 286 e-Games outlets do not offer the same types of wagering that the President is looking to squash. The company protested any link between the two, saying e-Games cannot be played on a home or office computer. Players must be registered members of the outlets, and can only access the e-Games when physically present at one of their cafes.
But President Duterte doesn’t see it that way. Last week, he alleged that PhilWeb Chairman Roberto Ongpin was exploiting political connections to propagate what should be classified as an illegal online gambling regime. He further vowed to “destroy the clutches” of the ‘oligarchy’, led by Ongpin.
“These are the guys, who, while sitting inside their planes or their mansions everywhere, are raking in money like taxi meters,” said President Duterte last week.
He went on to accuse Ongpin, former Trade Minister during the Marcos regime, of flaunting his political influence throughout several administrative periods. “My plan, my order,” said President Duterte, is to “Destroy the oligarchs [who] are embedded in government now.”
Following the President’s naming of Ongpin as a prime example of an “oligarch”, the Chairman resigned from PhilWeb and all of its subsidiaries.
On Sunday, Valdes said Ongpin only quit “to save the company”.
Make Way at the Unemployment Lines
Valdes also alluded that, if the corporation’s 286 e-Games outlets are closed due to the loss of licensure, it could result in as many as 5,000 workers heading to the unemployment lines.
“This means Philweb would shut down all operations,” said Valdes in a statement to the press. “All the suppliers of e-Games,” as well as “small and medium enterprises that supply goods and services to each e-Games outlet, would also suffer from the shutdown.”