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IRR flaws derail launching of PCSO’s Loterya ng Bayan

IRR flaws derail launching of PCSO’s Loterya ng Bayan

MANILA, March 22 (PNA) – After thorough review by the House Committee on Games and Amusement, lawmakers on Wednesday said that the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the Loterya ng Bayan (PLB) that is set to be launched by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) still needs further fine tuning.

The PLB is a re-invented replacement of the controversial Small Town Lottery (STL) that was intended to kill the illegal numbers game “jueteng.” The PCSO officially introduced the PLB in March last year but its implementation has been reset a few times to fine-tune its rules.

The PLB also aims to provide additional funds for the PCSO’s health programs and charities, provide funds to local government units for their health and medical programs and provide additional employment opportunities among others.

Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing, committee chairman, moved for the further study of the PLB after he and several lawmakers pointed to several flaws contained in certain provisions of the IRR.

Minority Leader Danilo Suarez noted that in the IRR, the minimum bet for that can be placed in the PLB is P5 whereas the minimum bet that can be placed in jueteng (an illegal numbers game) is as low as 50 centavos.

“This situation still opens the PLB to ‘bookies’ as people will bet on operators willing to take less than the required minimum bet,” the Quezon lawmaker said, adding that it would open the PLB to a resurgence in jueteng-like operations .

Another seeming flaw noted by Suarez is the provision subjecting the “presumptive monthly retail receipts” (PMMR) of an authorized operator to periodic review and/or adjustment by the PCSO.

The PMMR refers to the amount of retail receipts presumed to have been collected by a PLB operator in a month.

“This provision will be a nightmare to an awardee because it is restrictive,” he said.

If operators were subjected to very restrictive rules, they would find ways to circumvent the rules, he said.

But the biggest question posed by both Bagatsing and Suarez deals on how an operator can pay the prize of a large bet without badly losing money.

In accordance with the PCSO charter, a prize fund constituting 55 percent of the net sales is set aside for the payment of prizes.

They noted that a P1-bet will win P800 for the bettor and that there is no limitations on how much can be wagered on any single combination.

They pointed out that a single combination with an accumulated bet of P10,000 will entail P8 million in prize money that the operator, as per provisions of the IRR, will shoulder exclusively.

“If the operator got hit with a very large bet and the prize fund is all used up, who will shoulder the deficiency? This will be a big risk taken by operators due to the limitations of the IRR,” Bagatsing said.

“The operator will lose a lot of money if this happens,” he said.

However, the lawmakers said that their questions were raised not to hinder the implementation of the PLB but to help in its smooth operation.

Suarez said that “anything that could be done to help the PCSO in curtailing, if not eradicating, jueteng is a welcome development and needs all support.”

PCSO officials admitted that the IRR do have certain flaws and they are willing to correct them.

PCSO chairperson Margarita Juico said that remedies were already being done but have not yet been incorporated in the IRR.

“The deficiency to be incurred by the operator in case the prize fund is used up to pay winnings will be shouldered by the PCSO although it is not yet implicitly worded in the IRR,” she said while assuring for its inclusion in the IRR.

As for the risks operators have to face, the PCSO officials said that the IRR had already answered that issue.

PCSO director Atty. Ferdinand Roxas II said that strict background checks would be implemented to determine if the individuals and corporations that wanted to be PLB operators had enough experience, knowledge and financial capability to sustain their operations.

“Besides, permutation statistics made by the PCSO show that operators being hit with large winnings will not happen everyday. Averaging the permutations, operators would not be in a losing proposition,” Roxas said.

In the end, Juico thanked the lawmakers for their questions and suggestions.

“We are always open to suggestions to perfect the IRR,” she assured the lawmakers.

The PLB will be tackled again when Congress resumes on May. (PNA)

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