In an effort to eradicate illegal gambling in the Philippines, on Tuesday, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) officially launched its expanded Small Town Lottery (STL), according to local sources.

The war against the illegal numbers game ‘jueteng,” comes on the heels of President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, to conduct a complete investigation into the allegations of underpayment or nonpayment of taxes by STL operators throughout the Southeast Asian country.

In a Palace briefing, PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan said, “Today, as we formally launch the expanded small town lottery here in Malacañang, we finally draw the line and declare that it’s time to put a stop to illegal gambling,” Balutan went on to say, ‘‘Today, we declare that the small town lottery is the only legal and authorized numbers game nationwide. To all illegal gambling operators, we offer you both an invitation and a warning: Go legal,” according to the Manila Standard.

Balutan said at the briefing, that some form of resistance is expected and that those who benefit the most from illegal gaming will attempt to undermine the PCSO, but that they are prepared. He added that revenue generated from STL’s expansion will be used to help support medical services for those in need of the administration’s health programs.

PCSO chair Jose Jorge Corpuz first announced plans for the retooled STL mid-January. Corpuz said that his plan was to allow illegal gambling operators a one-year time frame to legitimize their activities. Corpuz said at the time that PCSO officials met with quite a few illegal gambling operators, who pledged to support the STL.

Corpuz said an alliance between the PCSO, the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces, and the National Bureau of Investigation was formed to put an end to all illegal gambling activities. He added that 56 corporations are now authorized to operate the expanded STL, and estimated that would equate to an additional P2 billion (US$40.2 million) in monthly revenue, or P27.6 billion for the entire year, according to the news agency.

In the last three months of 2016, PCSO revenue had increased to P6.4 billion from P4.7 billion in 2015, Copuz said.

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