The legal status of Filipino casino sites has gone through a significant amount of change in recent years due to complex gaming laws and actions taken by President Rodrigo Duterte. The good news is that our gaming laws are relatively simple for players. An appeals court in 2012 ruled that there is nothing in the law that makes it a crime to place bets with online casinos.
The confusing state of Filipino gaming law is something operators and politicians have to work out for themselves. In the meantime, we remain free to play at casino sites that accept Philippines citizens. We will delve into the law in more detail below, but first here is a list of online casinos that offer real money games:
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These online casinos are all located overseas but are safe places to play with longstanding reputations for fair games and fast payouts. The reason these sites are able to offer real money casino games in the Philippines is because they are headquartered in jurisdictions that have less restrictive gaming laws. These sites operate according to the laws of their home countries, not according to the laws of the Philippines.
Here in the Philippines, things are more complicated for operators. We do have a variety of legal gambling options in the real world, but the government maintains an iron grip over the industry.
The key thing to remember is that the law does not prohibit us from playing wherever we want. Local operators do business in a highly-regulated climate, but things are simple for us lowly players. All we need to do is identify which online casinos accept Filipinos and then sign up and play.
In fact, finding casino sites that accept customers from the Philippines is our greatest challenge as players. The Philippines has become a popular licensing jurisdiction for casinos that would like to serve the greater Asian market. The problem is that casino sites licensed in the Philippines are not legally allowed to serve Filipino customers – they may only accept players from other countries.
Many of the world’s biggest names in online gambling have business interests in the Philippines and are therefore obligated to abide by our gaming laws. Even though the Philippines would be an attractive market for these operators, most have found the trade-off to be worth it. A license from the Philippines may effectively block the Filipino market, but it grants them access to the wider Asian market.
That leaves us with fewer options than people in some other countries, but it does not leave us completely without options. There are still a good number of online casinos that have chosen not to do set up shop in the Philippines and are therefore able to take our business.
Filipino Casinos and the Law
Gambling laws are subject to change with President Rodrigo Duterte still working out how exactly he wants to regulate the gambling industry, but we will do our best to explain the situation in simple terms to give you an idea of what the law says regarding gambling in the Philippines.
First of all, we should explain that there are two separate jurisdictions that regulate Filipino gambling law. Gambling in the majority of the country is regulated and controlled by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, or PAGCOR for short.
PAGCOR maintains a monopoly over gambling across most of the Philippines and is also responsible for regulating the industry. PAGCOR also issues licenses to operate land-based casinos, bingo parlors, electronic gaming outlets, sports betting kiosks, and private poker games.
Things took a sudden twist in 2016 when President Duterte began a gambling crackdown in and ordered PAGCOR to rescind the licenses of more than one hundred e-gaming licenses across the country. Duterte’s decision to revoke these licenses came as a part of his prior promise to crack down on online gambling (which includes e-gaming cafes) targeting Filipino citizens.
Duterte later softened his stance and said he was willing to allow the resumption of e-gaming in the Philippines, but only if the industry could be properly regulated and taxed. In particular, he wanted to ensure e-gaming cafes were located a suitable distance from churches and schools in order to reduce the social costs associated with gambling.
Many e-gaming locations operate as normal today, but PAGCOR does keep a close eye on things. Not too long ago, PAGCOR revoked another 197 licenses for e-gaming and e-bingo operators that were deemed to be located too close to schools, churches or other gaming cafes.
PAGCOR also operates hundreds of brick-and-mortar casinos in the Philippines, and those operations have managed to continue business as usual among the e-gaming shakeup.
Now, remember that we said there are two different gambling jurisdictions in the Philippines. Everything we have discussed up to this point applies to gambling across the majority of the country, excluding the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport, or Cagayan Freeport for short.
Cagayan Freeport up in the northeastern section of the country operates under a different set of gaming laws. In Cagayan Freeport, actual online casinos are licensed, legal and regulated. Cagayan Freeport is also home to brick-and-mortar casinos that are only permitted to target tourists.
License Filipino casino sites in Cagayan Freeport are prohibited from accepting anyone residing in the Philippines and Filipinos living abroad. Instead, licensed operators must target customers 21 or older in foreign nations. In this way, the Philippines serves as a pure licensing operator and gateway to the rest of the Asian market. Many of the world’s largest internet gambling brands have chosen to acquire Filipino licenses in order to better access other Asian customers.
Things changed once again in 2016 when PAGCOR announced plans to revamp its online gambling licensing regulations and issue new licenses for online casinos and sports betting sites targeting foreign customers. This change included issuing a new rulebook for licensed operators.
In December of 2016, PAGCOR awarded the first batch of 35 licenses to online gambling operators. Each online casino operator was required to pay a $50,000 application fee followed by a $200,000 licensing fee amid strict orders not to do business with residents of the Philippines or Filipinos traveling abroad. Again, we should note that these laws do not target individual players. If you wish to play online at a gambling website that does accept Filipinos, feel free to do so.
Wes Burns co-founded OnlineCasinoSites.com with a mission to help gamblers understand and navigate the regulated online casino market in all countries around the world. Wes is a respected gambling journalist, working in the industry since 2008.