The Philippines is in a weird place right now with the treatment of gambling. Real money casinos still operate relatively unmolested, but comments from President Duterte in mid-2016 suggested plans to take a hardline stance against online betting sites. A month later, he seemed to reverse course and suggest that online gambling may be allowed to resume if the government can adequately collect taxes on the industry.
Things are in a state of flux, but we will keep this page up to date as new developments manifest. In the meantime, we can provide a landscape view of the current legal situation for gambling.
Land-based casinos have been constructed in most major cities and residents are welcome to play table games, slot machines and poker at government-owned casinos. A limited form of sports betting is also offered through the government-run MegaSportsWorld.
This corporation hosts wagers on certain sports at local betting shops and through internet cafes across the country. Customers may also phone in wagers through the sportsbook’s telebetting service. It should be noted that MegaSportsWorld does not accept bets over the internet.
Online gambling also exists, although the government has always prohibited domestic companies from offering their internet wagering services to Philippine customers. The Cagayan Special Economic Zone licenses dozens of online betting sites but all sites registered there may only accept wagers from customers located in other countries.
Interestingly, there are no prohibitions against offshore betting websites serving the Philippines. If you would like to play casino games, bet on sports or play poker online, you must do so with a site NOT licensed in the Philippines. Here’s a look at a few sites that do accept Filipinos:
Best Philippines Betting Sites
Note: William Hill and many other betting sites no longer accept customers from the Philippines. Their reasons for doing so were related to Filipino licensing rules that restrict licensees from accepting local customers.
The Cagayan Special Economic Zone (aka Cagayan Freeport) is currently the only licensing jurisdiction in all of Asia. This makes it an attractive location for companies wishing to establish a foothold in the quickly-growing Asian gaming market. But because a Philippines license prevents companies from offering their services to locals, sites must stop accepting Filipinos in order to get a license. An increasing number of sites appear willing to make the tradeoff.
As far as alternatives go, it is important to choose a site that is licensed by some other respectable licensing authority. Just because you can’t play at locally-licensed Philippines betting sites, it doesn’t mean you should play with companies that have no license whatsoever. There are plenty of other legitimate jurisdictions in the world that host safe betting.
The online casinos recommended on this page meet all the requirements of a safe place to play. They have licenses in other parts of the world, operate in a fair manner and are financially stable. You’ll find sports betting, casino games and poker at each of these sites.
Gaming Law in the Phillipines
There are two sets of gaming laws in the Philippines. Most of the country is regulated under one set of rules defined by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). PAGCOR is both a regulator and operator of gambling throughout the country. It is fully government-owned and acts as a monopoly for all forms of gaming inside the Philippines.
PAGCOR operates land-based casinos located throughout the country as well as the sportsbook we all know as MegaSportsWorld. None of these games are offered online although MegaSportsWorld does offer its wagers at internet cafes and its phone-in service. PAGCOR also licenses the many e-gaming cafes around the country.
In another part of the country, Cagayan Freeport is situated an Asian gambling destination, and that’s exactly what it is today. The zone works with international gambling companies to develop and promote the area as a tourism and gaming hotspot. Private companies operate casinos and resorts in Cagayan Freeport under the watchful eye of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).
Cagayan Freeport also addresses online gambling as it is the only licensing body in Asia for internet gaming sites. At one point, upwards of 80 companies were licensed by PAGCOR to offer internet casino games, poker and sports betting. The catch was always that companies registered in Cagayan Freeport were strictly forbidden from offering their games to citizens of the Philippines.
As the number of operators licensed by the authority attested, a license from PAGCOR was highly attractive. It offered access to the wider Asian gambling market even though it excluded the Philippines. The licensing body in Cagayan Freeport has changed somewhat in recent years, but it remains to this day an attractive licensing jurisdiction – more on that below.
It is undoubtedly frustrating to companies to have to block out a nation of more than 100 million people, but they clearly find it worthwhile even to this day.
President Duterte’s 2016 Gambling Crackdown
In August of 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte unexpectedly declared war on online gambling. He vowed to “destroy” the industry and immediately began ordering PAGCOR to suspend the licenses of 124 local e-gaming cafes. In Dueterte’s own words, “online gambling must be stopped.”
He pointed to the social ills associated with gambling as his main motivation for setting his target on the industry, particularly “oligarchs” who profit off the activity while everyday citizens suffer. In some comments, he even mentioned PhilWeb Chairman Roberto Ongpin by name as an example of the oligarchs who are “embedded in government.”
President Duterte later made an abrupt about-shift with a statement indicating that online betting may return if the government finds a better way to secure its share of the profits earned by gaming operators. If the government comes up with a better tax solution and electronic gaming cafes are located far away from churches and schools, they may open the country to online betting once again.
In fact, a good number of e-gaming cafes do remain in operation. The Filipino did go on to revoke even more licenses at a later point, but only for shops that were located too closely to churches and schools. President Duterte and his supporters have since made the point that their aim isn’t necessarily to completely shut down gambling, but rather to ensure operators are not taking advantage of the poor and vulnerable members of society.
Cagayan Freeport Reopens for Online Betting Licenses
More recently, the Cagayan Special Economic Zone revamped its licensing process and standards for internet gambling sites. After issuing new standards, PAGCOR began accepting licensing applications from the world’s major online betting sites.
The new licensing standards are tougher and more expensive than before, but 35 licenses have been granted to date. These new licenses do however function in a manner similar to the old licenses. They permit full-fledged betting sites as long as those sites do not accept Filipino customers. As it was in the past, Filipino gambling licenses permit operators to accept customers from the rest of the world but to restrict all Filipinos from participating.
Government officials announced prior to the new licensing system that their aim was to provide better regulation over the industry and to make up for lost tax revenue resulting from President Duterte’s crackdown of local e-gaming parlors. The new licensing system calls for a $40,000 license application for sports betting sites and then another $150,000 licensing fee once approved.
PAGCOR will oversee the industry and monitor licensees for compliance with all gaming laws. Among other expectations, Filipino betting sites will be required to proactively block local residents, prevent minors from playing and offer verifiably fair games.
Wes Burns has more than a decade’s worth of experience as a writer, researcher, and analyst in the legal online betting industry and is co-founder of OnlineBettingSites.com. Wes approaches his work from the viewpoint of players.