Batasang Pambansa Complex. (File photo)

MANILA – Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido "Benny" Abante Jr. on Friday urged the government to focus more on studying the social costs of all types of online gambling on the lives of Filipinos instead of singling out Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the country.

“The recent spotlight on the negative impact of POGOs should also be cast on all forms of online gambling in the country. This is because POGOs cater to players abroad, unlike online games that target Filipino customers such as virtual poker, casinos, sports betting, and e-bingo,” Abante said in a statement.

“Since Filipinos are the targets of online gambling platforms, it is clear that the social costs of electronic gambling are greater than that of POGOs," he said.

The lawmaker pointed out that the recent Senate hearing on POGOs only highlighted the fact that online gambling is illegal in China, and the Chinese government has been taking tough measures to combat all forms of gambling.

The spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy even issued a statement that “Chinese citizens gambling overseas, opening casinos to attract Chinese citizens as primary customers constitute gambling crimes."

"But what about our own people? By allowing online gambling here, are we not acting as enablers of a vice that has proven to be so destructive and counterproductive in China that its government has outlawed it?" Abante said.

He said the Department of Finance is correct in saying that it is difficult to quantify the social costs of the POGO industry, and the same could hold true for the local online gambling industry.

“But if we insist on weighing the social costs of particular industries against the revenues they earn, then let's make an earnest effort to study the effects of online gambling on our citizens," said the lawmaker.

"As far as I am concerned, though, you cannot put a price on the lives of individuals and families that have been ruined by online gambling. Ang ibang mga OFW, mga seaman, dahil naa-adik sa sugal, wala nang maipadala sa kanilang mga pamilya. (Some of our overseas Filipino workers, the seafarers, have nothing to send to their families because they are addicted to gambling). The more gambling becomes accessible, the easier it is to fall prey to its poisoning effects. Yan ang epekto ng (That is the effect of) online gambling," Abante said. (PNA)