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Philippines Online Casinos

PhilippinesThe Southeastern Asian nation known as the Republic of the Philippines spans a large swath of the Pacific Ocean, consisting of more than 7,600 different islands. More than 100 million live across the country’s three major regions, with millions more Filipinos living overseas in the United States and numerous other nations around the world.

The Philippines is well-known for having a strong gambling culture, with regulated casinos being present in the country since the 1970s. Most gaming is controlled by a state-owned corporation, which also provides for some limited opportunities for online gambling – though Filipinos have to look to overseas sites for the full Internet casino experience.

No Shortage of Betting Opportunities

Gambling has present in the Philippines for as long as anyone can remember, though it was not always handled in such a controlled manner as what exists today. Up through the mid-1970s, illegal betting operations were ever-present throughout the country, with both traditional Filipino games and some more recognizable global options being present – if you knew where to look. While bingo and parimutuel betting on jai alai were permitted, it was clear that most of the wagering taking place throughout the nation was being done illegally.

This situation was challenged by the creation of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, better known as PAGCOR. Wholly owned by the state, PAGCOR has grown to become the largest source of revenue – other than taxes – for the national government. However, the corporation started relatively small: after being created by a Presidential Decree, it built its first casino in 1977, the Manila Bay Casino. The floating operation was the only legal game in town until 1979, when a fire caused critical damage to the MS Philippine Tourist, the luxury liner that hosted the venue.

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That forced PAGCOR to look into land-based gaming as an alternative – and what an alternative it would become. Today, there are dozens of licensed casinos that are operating throughout the Philippines; most of these are in the Manila metro area, ranging from small card rooms to hotels that have been authorized to include slots or other games on their premises.

The most recent expansive push has seen PAGCOR attempt to compete with some of the world’s biggest gaming hubs through the creation of integrated resorts. The first such venue, Resorts World Manila, was opened in Newport City in 2009. However, the true scope of the effort was only seen in Entertainment City, where the government made plans to open a series of major resorts that would rival those seen in Las Vegas, Macau, and other major destination cities.

This project moved into full swing in 2013, when the Solaire Manila was opened. It was to be the first of four such resorts to open in the area; the second, the City of Dreams Manila, opened in early 2015. Each of these facilities cost more than $1 billion to develop, and have prided themselves on offering world-class amenities alongside their massive gaming floors.

Other forms of gambling are also popular throughout the country. As the Philippines is a heavily Catholic nation (more than 80% of the population practices the religion), it may not come as a surprise that church bingo has taken a strong hold here as well, with small games for charity and large contests held by casinos both being common. Sports betting also has quite a strong following, both in terms of parimutuel racing on horses, jai alai, and even cockfights as well as on worldwide sporting events through licensed sportsbooks. A national lottery is also popular, with the Philippine Lottery Draw being aired on television since 1995.

There is one other group worth noting in the country’s gambling landscape: the First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corporation, or FCLRC, which operates out of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone. Gaming facilities in this region operate under different rules than in the rest of the nation, and cater exclusively to foreigners in an effort to draw tourism to the region.

Online Gaming Legal, But Limited

Internet gambling is clearly legal in the Philippines, but that declaration is only a small part of the story. As with land-based gambling, there are two different corporations set up to handle the regulation of the iGaming industry, and they have very different policies – neither of which are likely to be fully satisfactory for Filipinos who want to enjoy a full online betting experience.

First, there’s PAGCOR, which runs a sort of limited online gambling operation. While you can’t access their sites from home, there are hundreds of “e-Games stations” that are licensed to operate in the country, including more than 100 in the Manila area alone. These cafes allow locals to come in, use computers, and play games from providers such as Realtime Gaming. These sites also allow for sports betting.

Meanwhile, FCLRC offers up fully functioning, locally-licensed online casinos, making them the only jurisdiction in Asia (at least for now) that offers up the chance for operators to be regulated. There’s only one catch: these sites cannot take play from individuals in the Philippines itself. That means that while many companies seek out these licenses, they do so to offer games in other Asian (and worldwide) jurisdictions, not to target the country itself.

All of this means that, for locals who want to play in their homes, foreign websites are the only option for real money betting. That’s hardly a problem, though, as many of the largest operators and developers in the world are active here. It certainly doesn’t hurt that court rulings have found that there is no ban on Internet gambling in the country, which makes it easier for sites to justify allowing real money play from the country.

Some major brands still keep themselves out of this jurisdiction: after all, without any true regulation, it is not as though operators are being welcomed with open arms. But there are more than enough sites willing to offer gaming in this grey market to ensure that you should be able to find exactly what you’re looking for. Some of the big name developers that do allow their games to be utilized here include:

  • Microgaming
  • RTG
  • Topgame
  • Rival
  • Betsoft

Big Plans Met With Skepticism

The Philippines clearly has some major plans for its gaming industry. In addition to the integrated resorts that have already been built in Entertainment City, there are also two more planned: Manila Bay Resorts is set to be opened in 2016, followed by Resorts World Bayshore in 2018. This will create a small hub of casinos in a very small area that PAGCOR and others hope will attract tourists from China, other Asian nations, and perhaps throughout the world.

There’s surely no doubt that this will happen to some extent. There is simply too much money and effort being expended here to have no results at all: each of the new resorts is beautiful, with the City of Dreams being a particularly attractive resort that is sure to become the favorite of at least some high-rollers.

But according to PAGCOR, the plan is to raise the national gambling revenues for the Philippines to $10 billion per year by 2020. This is a truly audacious goal: as of 2014, the nation only brought in $2.5 billion, while the entire state of Nevada brought in just over $11 billion in 2015, and Macau lead the world once again with just under $29 billion in revenues. That doesn’t make the goal in this country impossible, of course; however, it’s good to understand where that would put the nation compared to some of the world’s heavy hitters.

Many are skeptical that these numbers are realistic. They point to the fact that revenues in Macau have fallen precipitously, and say that Manila isn’t a particularly attractive destination for tourists. Others, however, believe that the city may be uniquely positioned to benefit from the Chinese crackdown on corruption that has sent VIPs and high rollers away from Macau; they also point out that the integrated resort model means there will be more revenue coming in from non-gaming sources here.

It will be impossible to properly forecast the future of the market here until after all four resorts have opened, and right now, the margin for error is huge: they could exceed expectations or come up far short. Only time will give us insight into whether these investments will pay off. But at least for the next few years, the promotion of these new and upcoming venues will be the primary focus for the Philippines, meaning that the status quo is likely to remain in place when it comes to online gambling.

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