Economists: Video games could be a source of revenue

A BILL that seeks to regulate video games could provide a new source of revenue for the government, according to economists.

“This could be an alternative and creative way to raise new sources of tax revenue for the government,” Michael L. Ricafort, chief economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., said in a Viber message on Tuesday.

He cited the need to pay for the more than P5-trillion debt that the state has incurred since the coronavirus pandemic started in 2020.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian on Monday said he would push a bill that seeks to regulate video games.

Under his Senate Bill 1063, regulation of the local video game industry would fall under the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

The agency can ban video games “unfit for consumption in the Philippines,” the lawmaker said, citing the need to curb video game addiction among children.

The Philippine video gaming industry is the 25th largest in the world by revenue, with earnings of more than $572 million, according to Pangasinan Rep. Christopher V.P. de Venecia, who sought an inquiry into the state of the sector in March.

Mr. Ricafort said demand for video games might decrease due to stricter regulations and if the government decides to increase taxes.

“It would also be interesting to benchmark regulations based on global best practices with the objective of protecting the interest of the general public, especially children,” he said.

John Paolo R. Rivera, an economist at the Asian Institute of Management, said the bill’s social objectives are more important that the financial gain.

“While the objective of this bill is noble, if the social gains from this such as better focus of students on studies and regulation of violence from video games are greater than the perceived earnings, then why not,” he said in a Viber message.  “Society and the economy will benefit in the long run.”

Under the measure, minors will be prohibited from buying video games rated for “adults only.” It will also require games to display age ratings on both their physical and digital covers.

Almost half of the country’s more than 110 million people play video games and local game developers are recognized globally, Mr. De Venecia has said.

The esports sector offers opportunities to generate revenue through creative avenues, namely streaming, shoutcasting and content creation, the congressman said in a House of Representatives resolution in the previous Congress.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr., founder of free market think thank Minimal Government Thinkers, said the measure could badly affect the economy.

“Gaming became dynamic precisely because there was little or no state intervention,” he said in a Viber message.

Several local groups have sought more government support for the Philippine esports industry, including seeing it as a legitimate creative sector and sport.

Filipino esports teams have won medals at international competitions, including the Southeast Asian and Asian games.

At the recent Southeast Asian games, Philippine Team Sibol won silver medals at the League of Legends and Crossfire events, while the Mobile Legends: Bang team, consisting of players from gaming organization Blacklist International, brought home a gold medal. — John Victor D. Ordoñez