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Online cockfight betting makes billions in the Philippines

A pair of belligerent roosters stood a few centimeters apart, their feet tied with iron hooks. Surrounding the “ring” are cameras that are streaming the match for thousands of gamblers across the Philippines to watch via mobile phones. Less than a minute later, the game was over. The victorious son clutches the defeated body.

New generation of gambling

Trick cockfighting, in which two roosters fight to the death, has become an online betting craze in the Philippines. This centuries-old pastime has become a strong Philippine “industry,” raking in millions of dollars in daily bets and spawning a new generation of gamblers.

Online cockfight betting makes billions in the Philippines - Photo 1.

A pair of chickens throw fiery kicks during a match televised live at the Pitmasters complex in Lipa city, Batangas, Philippines in January 2022. Photo: Bloomberg

The rise of cockfighting in the Philippines – the only country in the world that allows it – has eclipsed the appeal of traditional casinos. Cockfights are bringing in more monthly revenue than gambling giants Melco Resorts & Entertainment and Genting Hong Kong. According to industry insiders, countries from Mexico to Papua New Guinea are also getting into the online gambling game.

Taboo in much of the West, cockfighting is welcome in the Philippines, where matches can draw crowds on par with American baseball or British rugby.

With a minimum bet of 2USD, online cockfighting is affordable and has a win rate of up to 50%. Still, the industry’s rapid growth has ruined lives or sparked a tug-of-war between regulators and sparked backlash from international animal rights groups. economic.

A senior official from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has called online cockfighting “one of the most damaging things ever allowed by the government”. At least 20 bettors have gone missing, leading some to suggest suspending the game until the case is resolved.

The charm of cockfighting

Cockfighting has existed for a long time in the Philippines, even before Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed on the island’s shores more than 500 years ago.

Although illegal in most of the world, sabong – cockfighting in the local dialect – has a wide fan following. Every year, many people gather to watch the long-running World Slasher Cup cockfight at an arena in the capital Manila with the grandiose scale of a modern and professional sports tournament.

Online cockfight betting makes billions in the Philippines - Photo 2.

Bettors exchange bonuses. Photo: Bloomberg

In recent years, this game has become even more popular. The Philippine government must pass a law limiting the number of viewers watching live on Sundays and public holidays. As COVID-19 forced most businesses to close, these betting game operators started streaming matches.

“Online cockfighting wouldn’t have grown this big had it not been for the pandemic, or if it hadn’t been broadcast via mobile phones,” said Claire Alviar, an analyst at Philstocks Financial in the Philippines. .

The sudden growth of cockfighting has helped Pitmasters, which has a near monopoly on this business model, to generate more than 700 billion pesos in revenue (about 13.4 billion USD) from betting. That is more than twice the total revenue of casinos in the Southeast Asian country in 2019.

Its profits are amazing. The platform generates an average of 2-3 billion pesos per day. Of that, 95% goes to the winners and the remaining 5% goes to Pitmasters and dealers in the form of a commission. Another 135 million pesos are contributed as monthly taxes to the state-run regulator. That agency used that fund to fight the epidemic. fund to fight the pandemic.

The middle agents who joined Pitmasters early were hit by the times. A few weeks after joining in August 2020, one dealer said he was making at least 3 million pesos a month, or nearly $60,000, more than enough to buy a car and a new house. After the “giant” of technology Globe Telecom came out to support betting operations and integrate this gambling game available on their platform, the need for customers to find a middleman has decreased, which means his salary has been reduced to 2,300 USD/month.

The middleman using the alias Edwin Cruz said: “The pandemic is a great time for the online gambling industry to develop because many people in the Philippines love to gamble and have to spend time at home to limit the spread of the virus. bored them.

Online cockfight betting makes billions in the Philippines - Photo 3.

The owner of the fighting cock brings the “warrior” to the Pitmasters to compete. Photo: Bloomberg

Debt, death and disappearance

However, the mutant aura of online cockfighting has led to many alarming problems.

In the coastal town of Hagonoy, a man stabbed his 87-year-old neighbor to death when he was denied a loan for cockfighting. Or like the story of a gambler who had to commit suicide because he was in debt piled up to 600,000 pesos. Dozens of people have also disappeared without a trace after being last seen at cockfighting spots.

Observers see that the future of this industry is completely unclear. Ahead of the presidential election next May, candidate Leni Robredo announced that she does not support gambling. The second-placed candidate is Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has yet to comment publicly on the matter.

Besides, many animal rights advocates have condemned the game as inhumane. To encourage the cocks to fight, the breeder inserts cayenne pepper into their anus. They had to undergo cutlery, injections of muscle boosters as well as being forced to fight to the death.

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