Amid Casino Closures, Philippine Government Cracks Down On Online Gambling

While the Philippines is home to one of the largest offshore gambling enterprises on the planet, its POGOs are closed to actual residents of the islands.

This is not a great point of contention for local gamblers, at least under normal conditions.

However, with the Philippines entering its fifth month of Metro Manila coronavirus lockdowns, the casinos in the region have not been able to serve eager players at all – many of whom now more than ever have tremendous need for the distractions of responsible gambling.

Due to this dearth of local online options, some eager gamblers have taken to playing over the Internet through unlawful domestic operators.

Many of these illicit gambling operations have been promoted through popular social media platforms, making them easy for authorities to track.

As a result, the Philippine government has taken note of these activities and issued a warning to those citizens who are participating in such games.

PAGCOR, the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation, released the following statement:

“PAGCOR has received information that certain persons have been organizing illegal bingo games and online gambling and [are] using Facebook to promote such illegal activities. The public is warned not to patronize such schemes due to the risk of being scammed, identity theft, and credit card fraud. Betting on such illegal gambling activities is also a crime.”

The Philippine regulator also drew a parallel between unlawful domestic gambling operations and the promulgation of organized crime in the country.

However, this doesn’t mean that all online gambling is unlawful for Filipinos.

In fact, residents of the islands have several excellent options for legal online gambling. Just as the POGOs in the nation serve mainland Chinese customers, so too do offshore casinos, sportsbooks, and poker rooms serve Filipino gamblers legally and safely.

This distinction is important to understand, as due to the wording of PAGCOR’s statement re illegal online gambling, one might assume that it applies to the entire industry as a whole.

That is not the case.

The ruling only applies to unlicensed local gambling operators and their clientele.

In practice, the government is much more interested in going after the former than the latter, which leaves most residents in the clear.

Still, you should absolutely not frequent these kinds of gambling operations, particularly when there are so many legal online gambling options still available to all residents.  

In actual fact, it is perfectly legal for Philippine gamblers to use offshore sites like BetOnline, SportsBetting AG, and others, as these are based outside of the country’s jurisdiction.

Further, Philippine gambling laws do not penalize citizens for using legitimate offshore betting sites.  

Membership at such sites has been trending upwards at a meteoric rate since the COVID-19 lockdowns have effectively shuttered all local gaming options.

And in addition to the hundreds of casino games, live dealer games, sports betting options, and tournament poker available at these sites, Filipinos can rest assured knowing that – while unlawful domestic gambling does in fact support organized crime in the islands – these offshore casinos do not.

Remember, these sites don’t extend credit to members, meaning you can only play with money you first deposit. This takes away any impetus for usury and influence that local gambling rackets might implement in subjecting their less fortunate customers to various “payback” schemes.

In other words, when you use an offshore gambling site, you aren’t putting yourself, your neighbors, or you country at risk.

On the contrary, in the age of the coronavirus, quarantines, and social distancing mandates, legal online gambling is removing risk from the community.

This truth will possibly resonate with the nation’s lawmakers going forward. Given the economic turndown due to the pandemic, it is clear that legal domestic online gambling has a place in the country and could help contribute to coffers that are otherwise stretched thin.

Legislators in the Philippines are already considering the legalization of e-sabong, which would allow locals to lawfully place wagers on cockfighting over the Internet.

It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to extend this to all forms of gambling, thereby giving citizens the access they desire while keeping the taxable proceeds in-country.

Though the Duterte administration is typically opposed to Internet-based gambling for residents of the nation, the times appear to be signaling a new reality for online casinos.

Here’s hoping the people in charge are listening.

Sources: Inside Asian Gaming,