Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is once again threatening his country’s online gambling industry. In a speech delivered earlier this week, the authoritarian leader threatened to “suppress” online gambling throughout the country due to its connections to criminal activities, such as kidnapping.

Duterte’s threats were not followed by any specific policy actions and were later softened by aides who attempted to soften the strongman’s words.

In his speech reported on by Rapler, Duterte, who purports to be a supporter of law and order spoke of his country’s growing obsession with online lotteries and bingo and its alleged connections to organized crime saying, “Pero ‘yung online-online bingo (But the online bingo), it will be suppressed, no gambling…Because gambling, look at Okada, all the kidnappers, extortionists, scalawag policemen, they kidnap right there in the hotel room. They call the family. ‘You don’t want to pay?’ Then they will kill them.”

Once Duterte’s words started making headlines, his aides walked back the tone of the comments in an attempt to soften them. Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Duterte was referring only to illegal gambling operations and not to licensed operators.

Despite Panelo’s attempts to change the narrative, gambling operators were rightly worried. After all, since Duterte’s administration similarly lashed out drug use in the country more than 10,000 suspected drug dealers and users have been killed by vigilantes.

Despite the mixed messages coming from their boss, Philippine regulatory agencies are continuing to monitor the regulated and black market as they have been since the authoritarian took office.


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