Betting in the Philippines

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Following centuries of colonialism under Spanish, American and Japanese rule, the Republic of the Philippines gained its independence in 1946. By that time, cock fighting had already established itself as a national sport, with betting activity having been mentioned in local literature as long ago as 1887.

Illegal gambling dominated the landscape of the Philippines for a quarter century, as unlicensed casinos and underground bookmaking operations were opened all across the archipelago. Among the few lawful gambling activities in those days were church-organised bingo sessions and jai alai wagering at the national stadium in Manila.

To bring all of these activities under control, in 1976 President Ferdinand Marcos issued a decree that led to the formation of a government monopoly—the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). Ever since then, the entity has existed as a 100% state-owned corporation, running under the direct supervision of the Office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines.

PAGCOR has responsibility for regulating, authorising and licensing games of chance, wagering activities and casino gaming throughout the country. It also plays a role in promoting the Philippine tourism industry and generating revenues for socio-civic and national development programs.

In 2007, PAGCOR’s charter was extended by law for another 25 years. In 2010, revenues from gambling were estimated to have passed $1 billion, up from $387 million five years earlier, much of it coming from casino gambling with the nation’s sports betting market making a substantial contribution to the total.

Currently, there are 27 legal casinos active in the Philippines, including a dozen operated directly by PAGCOR under the brand Casino Filipino and another 13 under license, such as Resorts World Manila and the Hyatt Hotel and Casino. There is also one thoroughbred horseracing track—Santa Ana Park—located in Makati City, plus one “racino,” the PAGCOR Club San Lazaro in the coastal city of Cevite to the south of the capital.

Typical wagering activities at the PAGCOR properties include slot machines, baccarat, blackjack, roulette, craps, big & small, pai gow, stud poker and pontoon, among others. To engage in such activities, players must be at least 21 years of age.

Other than in the special investment zone known as Cagayan Freeport, online gambling operations are not allowed in most parts of the Philippines. The zone on the northeastern tip of the country was chartered in 1992 with tax incentives to attract resorts and industries. As a result, some 40 online casinos have been registered for operation in the Cagayan zone.

By contrast, the number of legal ways to bet on sports in the Philippines is rather limited. Running most of its sports betting on the Internet, PAGCOR has restricted its markets to horse races and basketball, supplemented by cockfighting events. Indeed, an estimated 1,700 cockfighting facilities can be found here.

Philippine residents seeking full-service bookmakers must look to Internet sportsbooks domiciled offshore. According to CasinoCity, there are 323 English-language sports betting web sites that accept play from Philippines. They include such majors as Bet365, Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, Expekt, Party Bets, Gamebookers, 888 Sport, bwin and Canbet, to name just a few.

Funding international accounts is no particular problem for bettors with addresses in the Philippines. Visa credit is accepted by some 2,003 Philippines-friendly gaming sites, while MasterCard counts 1,910 such venues. Transactions are typically denominated in U.S. Dollars.

For those bettors seeking to use local currency for deposits and withdrawals online, the preferred method would be an eWallet, such as Moneybookers or NETeller, both of which welcome the Philippine Peso. All support services, however, are in English or Spanish, with no sites listing the Tagalog language or Filipino as an option.