Sunday, June 6, 2004

Philippine ISP plans online
betting for cockfights

Philweb estimates online
cockfight betting may bring
in annual revenue of $1 million

A Philippine Internet-service provider said it's proposing what may be the first online betting for cockfights, aiming to draw some of the thousands of dollars that change hands during contests into a central system.

Philweb Corp. wants to cash in on the tens of thousands of cockfights held a year in a nation where enthusiasts say cockpits may outnumber pulpits in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

Much of the betting now is done through hand signals before two roosters, fitted with 3-inch steel blades on their feet, are thrown at each other in a clash usually to the death.

"With the popularity of cockfighting in the Philippines, we are extremely optimistic about the potential of this new format," Roberto Ongpin, chairman of listed Philweb, said in a statement to the stock exchange in Manila.

Philweb, which operates online casino gambling and sports betting in the Philippines, estimates cockfight betting online may generate annual revenue of 60 million pesos ($1 million).

State-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., which regulates gambling and gets a cut of the proceeds, said it hasn't committed to the proposal.

The agency generated 10 billion pesos in taxes and other funds, or 1.6 percent of the government's annual revenue last year.

Cockfight betting online "might work," said Gerardo Lafiguera, a computer engineer and breeder of about 150 fighting cocks south of Manila. "If you're someone looking for something to bet on, it'll do."

Other enthusiasts say they can't do without the noise, sweat and flying feathers that come with matches between fowls whose naturally aggressive instincts are sometimes hyped by drugs.

A true supporter of the sport would want to see what he's betting on, said Mon Medina, a car-rental business owner who spends his weekends at cockfights, cheering for his two birds or betting on other fowl.

The aficionado "wants to see how he wins and how he loses," Medina said. "I have to go to the cockpit to choose whom I'll bet on. It's a very different feeling, the thrill in the cockpit."

The height of cockfight betting usually occurs during the World Slasher Cup, a four-decade-old competition considered the prize event. The Slasher Cup draws competitors to Manila twice a year from around the globe, particularly the U.S., where cockfights are illegal in all but three states.

Cockfighting is popular elsewhere in Southeast Asia, in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. In Manila, as many as 10,000 fans pay $10 each to attend the Slasher Cup, which takes place in the air conditioned 32,000-seat Araneta Coliseum, where boxer Muhammed Ali beat Joe Frazier in the 14th of a 15-round bout on Oct. 1, 1975.

During the Slasher Cup, as many as 60 cockfight competitors each pay a $1,000 entrance fee, and an estimated $600,000 changes hands nightly, according to Web site The total purse is about $75,000, with about $50,000 going to the winner, according to the Internet site. A message left with Slasher Cup coordinator Dong Lamoste wasn't returned.

Cockfighting is already a hot topic on the Internet., which calls itself the most popular Philippine cockfighting Web site, lists contests, has links to feedmakers for breeders, and photos of fowl with names such as Lemonbutcher.

"Cockfighting has a very big market," said Oscar Rivera, operator of an off-track betting station in Manila for horse racing. "It appeals to a wider audience than horse racing."


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