While the Philippines bans its own citizens from online gambling, the Southeast Asian country is one of the world's richest and most popular destinations of Internet casino operations. The number of foreign online players has soared because of strict travel restrictions during the global pandemic, and now the government-controlled gaming corporation is taking aim at all the illegal sites that have popped up that are not under the agency's regulatory control.
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Philippines Cracking Down
Gambling is a lucrative and surging business in the Philippines. Various legal and illegal forms of wagering are found almost all over the archipelago, including 20 casinos in the metro Manila area alone.
The government manages gambling through the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) — a state-owned agency that operates a number of land-based casinos and also acts as a regulator to privately-owned venues.
The regulator also issues licences to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO), with 60 entities currently running legal operations. Manila stopped taking applications for new online casinos in August 2019, citing concerns about national security.
However, the government agency has recently received information that "certain persons have been organizing illegal bingo games and online gambling and using Facebook to promote such illegal activities."
The government has renewed warnings to its citizens to avoid engaging in online gambling because there is "a strong link between illegal gambling and organized crime." While the Philippines refuses to halt legal online gaming operations, it has threatened prosecution to those that offer bets without a licence.
"The public is warned not to patronize such schemes due to the risk of being scammed, identity theft, and credit card fraud,” added the regulator.
Many gamblers in Asia have turned to online gambling in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic halted travel and closed casinos throughout the continent. That means huge tax revenues for the government of the Philippines as one Chinese official estimated online gaming sites taking in billions in bets.
China has called on the Philippines to revoke all online gaming licenses and shut down the sites. But Philippine officials said POGOs aid the country far too greatly in taxes and desperately needed jobs.
Philippines' Casino Boom
The Philippines has been a tourist destination for gambling for hundreds of years, dating back to the 16th century.
The country is rising steadily in the gaming industry, slowly establishing itself as one of the gambling capitals of Southeast Asia. It boasts more casinos than Macau — the Asian gambling giant which receives the majority of its income from gaming operations.
Much of this growth in the Philippines can be attributed to Manila's Entertainment City, which consists of first-class casinos and hotels.
Online gaming, which caters to registered players outside of the Philippines, has become a multimillion-dollar business. The industry was the second biggest driver for office space in the country in 2017, according to a Manila media source.
Application and processing fees for gaming licences amount to $50,000 for online casinos and $40,000 for sports betting, plus another $200,000 and $150,000 respectively upon the approval of each license. Some of those operators include well known top-ranked sites like Betway and Intertops.
Online Gaming in the Philippines
Online gaming platforms allow players to log on, register and make deposits, and gamble remotely. It's estimated that 90 to 95 percent of POGO clients are logging in to play from China, where laws ban any form of gambling by its citizens.
You can fund your account anonymously by using bitcoin.
Manila has become the number one hotspot worldwide for online gaming, ahead of Malta, the Isle of Man and Curacao, according to David Lee, a lawyer at a Taiwanese firm that specializes in gaming laws.
The games offered on these platforms are "dictated by Asian tastes, where most of the demand comes from," said Brendan Bussmann, a Las Vegas-based consultant specializing in the gaming, sports, entertainment and hospitality industries.
"There is a lot of baccarat, as well as some sic bo (a Chinese dice game) and blackjack," added Bussmann. The amounts wagered tend to below, in the range of $5 to $100, he said.
Place Your Bets On These Games
- Casino: Games offered at these legal venues include slot machines, poker, roulette, baccarat, and blackjack. Revenues in 2019 exceeded $1 billion — a 20.8 percent year-over-year gain.
- Lottery: There are several types of lotteries run by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. The amount of money of the prize depends on the type of lottery, as well as how many of the chosen numbers in the card match the numbers that were drawn.
- Sports betting: MegaSportsWorld is a fully licensed bookmaker with more than 100 locations in the country. Customers can either walk-in or phone in bets, but they are prohibited from accepting online bets from Filipino residents.
- Horse racing: The sport began as a recreational activity in 1867. Today, three thoroughbred racetracks are used in rotation by the Metro Manila Turf Club. Players can wager on win, place, show, daily double, exacta and other exotic wagers.