PCSO chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz and general manager Alexander Balutan during Wednesday’s budget briefing. Photo: Vince F. Nonato.
Although the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office has touted the five-fold expansion of small-town lottery operations under the Duterte administration as an antidote to illegal gambling, a lawmaker on Wednesday questioned if the government is indeed getting its rightful share.
PCSO Chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz told lawmakers that 92 STL operators have been accredited from the previous figure of 18.
“It is converting illegal to legal, so the government will benefit. We know there are illegal activities on the ground. We encourage them to be legal,” Corpuz said, adding that PCSO wanted to turn gambling lords into “gaming lords.”
Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry Roque commended the “increased efficiency” that led to the projected 183-percent increase of STL proceeds to P18.32 billion in 2017, from P6.46 billion last year.
However, Roque said this is also a “cause for alarm” because “we’re probably getting only the tip of the iceberg.”
“We know too that it’s an instrument of jueteng lords to enrich themselves,” he said, adding there’s “no way to ensure the amounts” since STL operations are practically outsourced to the employees of accredited agents.
“We conduct the lottery and allow them to accept the bets. They would determine how much they declare they made,” Roque noted.
Similary, appropriations committee chair Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles asked if STL operations would only become “fronts” of the illegal gambling lords.
Corpuz acknowledged the concern but appealed for lawmakers to “look at the bigger picture” since “we just opened the market.” He stressed the goal of turning gambling lords into “allies of the government.”
“The ones we’ll allow to enter, we’ll help play [the game]. After we control the game, that’s the time we will impose all the restrictions you want,” he said.
Roque pitched that the STL system should be computerized too to centralize operations in the hands of actual PCSO employees, unlike the current setup of letting accredited agents and their personnel who handle the bets because of the agency’s lack of manpower.
However, General Manager Alexander Balutan, emphasized the job-generating aspect of the charity gaming industry.
The PCSO is one of the government’s major revenue-generating agencies, having been mandated to contribute funds for the purposes of at least 13 Republic Acts.
PCSO’s total retail receipts are projected to increase by 31 percent in 2017 to P51.88 billion, from the P39.56 billion actual income realized in 2016. Lotto continues to account for bulk of the said income, although it is projected to decreased by 1 percent to P28.59 billion, from P28.77 billion in 2016.
Besides lotto and STL, the other games under PCSO are Keno (to earn P4.95 billion, 15 percent up from 2016’s P4.32 billion) and sweepstakes (to earn P17.5 million, 40 percent higher than last year’s P12.5 million).
However, PCSO asked lawmakers to consider reviewing the various laws for mandatory contributions for possible repeal or amendment. This would free up more funds for health-related and charitable purposes. JE