Did you know that gambling has been present in the Philippines as early as the 16th century? Some believe that gambling was introduced by the Spaniards when they colonized the country in the mid 1500s but there are records showing that gambling already existed in the Philippines in the early 1500s.
But regardless of the origin, gambling remains one of the most popular forms of entertainment and leisure up to this day.
Is gambling legal in the Philippines?
Although frowned upon by many, there are actually legal types of gambling in the Philippines. In Metro Manila alone, there are more than 20 casinos therefore making the country’s capital more attractive to tourists who are into these types of entertainment.
Lottery is also a legal gambling. It is one of the most popular types of gambling in the Philippines due to the fact that it is available all over the country. The long line of people in lotto outlets is a common scenario especially in big and densely populated cities. The beauty of the lottery is that part of its proceeds is given to various charities, health programs, and other projects to promote the welfare of the Filipinos.
Horse race betting and cockfighting are also recognized as legal types of gambling in the Philippines.
Of course there is illegal gambling, too. Jueteng (local lottery), masiao, and last two are considered illegal in the Philippines.
Control and Regulation
Legal types of gambling are controlled and regulated by different government agencies.
PAGCOR. PAGCOR stands for Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation. It was created during the Martial Law period to address the prevalence of illegal casinos and clubs. Up to this day, the agency operates and licenses gambling casinos, gaming clubs, and other similar leisure spaces.
PCSO. PCSO, or Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, is a government-owned and controlled lottery company that aims to raise and provide funds for various programs and projects, mostly for health and medical assistance and services, of the government. The agency hosts fixed payout games, small town lottery (STL) games, and various pari-mutuel games such as Lotto 6/42, Mega Lotto 6/45, Super Lotto 6/49, and 6D Lotto.
GAB. Games and Amusement Board (GAB) regulates the professional sports in the Philippines such as basketball, bowling, football, karate, and many others. It also regulates cockfighting and horse betting.
Gambling events during special occasions are a common sight. There are big cockfighting events during fiestas and seasonal blood sports such as spider wrestling during the rainy season when spiders are abundant.
Even during wakes, betting games are being organized to entertain the people during the 24-hour vigil and at the same time help the family financially as they get a share of the winnings. Popular games played during wakes include bingo, mahjong, and Sakla. Cara y cruz (coin toss) used to be popular during wakes especially in provinces but authorities started to conduct raids as the game is considered illegal by the Philippine law.
Online gaming in the Philippines is offered by POGOs (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators). These gaming firms operate in the Philippines but cater to customers outside the country particularly China. However, online gaming is prohibited in the Philippines, both for Filipinos and foreigners based in the Philippines.
Gambling has been part of Philippine culture for centuries. Religious advocates question its moral impacts but not only it is enjoyed by many Filipinos but it also helps lessen the burden of the poor through the various programs and projects funded by such activities.