PCSO mulls small town lottery expansion to boost funds

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) will study a lawmaker's proposal to expand the small town lottery (STL) to other areas nationwide to boost its revenues and have more funds for its programs.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez made the suggestion to PCSO vice chairperson and general manager Jose Ferdinand Rojas II during the PCSO's budget briefing on Tuesday, August 23.  

“Can we ask the GM (general manager) to come up with a statistical analysis instituting this game?…There is an acceptable fact that gambling is a way of life. ‘Di natin maaalis ito so pagkakitaan na lang (We cannot remove this so we might as well earn from it),” said Suarez. 

The Quezon 3rd District Representative called the STL as the “most transparent” form of gambling that the government can provide its citizens. 

The PCSO introduced the STL to combat jueteng, an illegal numbers game.

According to Rojas’ presentation, the PCSO’s gross sales from STL was P4.7 billion in 2014, P4.794 billion in 2015, and P1.231 billion in the first quarter of 2016.  

There are STL operations in 14 provinces and 4 cities.

Suarez said with STL operations in all 81 provinces and 144 cities of the country,  there would mean 1.5 million jobs and up to P152 billion in revenues for the PCSO. 

Rojas said the PCSO would look into this because it may allow the PCSO to provide more hospital and medical assistance. 

“With the proposal of Congressman Suarez to have the expansion of our different gaming products, our revenue will increase, then our charity fund will also increase,” he said.

But what does the PCSO plan to do to address syndicates using the STL operations as a front for the jueteng?

Rojas said the PCSO plans to follow whatever directive will be coming from Malacañang. (READ: Dela Rosa: War on illegal gambling next)

“If there is any recommendation from the OP (Office of the President), PCSO will follow,” he said.

Localizing lotto

On Tuesday, Suarez also suggested that the PCSO study tapping a local company to operate and lease the online lottery machines in Luzon. 

The PCSO has an existing contract with the Philippine Gaming Management Corporation, the local gaming arm of Malaysia's Berjaya Group, for its online lottery.

“Now we are going to create a mandate to ask you to come up with a concrete program localizing operation of this. I don’t see the rationale [behind getting the] technical expertise that the Malaysians can do. Can we be assured that there’ll be a submission from your office that lotto should be national?” asked Suarez.

Rojas replied, “Yes, we can do it.” 

He noted that from 2010 to the first quarter of 2016, the PCSO’s gross sales from lotto, lotto express, and sweepstakes were at P191.56 billion.

The PCSO faced the House committee on appropriations on Tuesday as another fund source for the government. 

It is primarily tasked to generate money for health programs and other medical services through the sweepstakes, lotto express, STL, and online lottery.

In 2015, the PCSO’s Individual Medical Assistance Program spent 18.5 million daily for outpatient consultations, medicine donations, ambulance conduction of indigent patients, assistance for calamity victims, and hospitalization assistance.  

The PCSO also spent P24.81 million for 11,361 persons who benefitted from its financial grants to orphanages, homes for the aged, and homes for street children. 

The agency also gave P142.9 million to 52 government hospitals under its Endowment Fund. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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