Gambling is, perhaps, one of the most popular activities in the Philippines. With the current progress of technological developments in the country, online gambling has become so popular that one can’t help but ask: Is online gambling even legal in the Philippines?
Online Gambling: Rules and Regulation in the Philippines
If you are one of those who like to play online and wager real money, you’d want to know how to enjoy betting online without the risk of jail time. It’s pretty understandable as it costs too much money to gamble. It’s even worse if it ends up getting you in jail for having fun. But, no worries. While there are gambling laws in the Philippines, it’s not unlawful to gamble or place bets over the Internet. That said, online gambling is, therefore, legal and allowed in the country.
There are two distinct sets of laws in play here as the Philippines is divided into four regions for gambling purposes. First, there’s the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), a regulatory body that controls all gambling activities, online or otherwise, in the better part of the country. Then, the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport or simply “Cagayan Freeport” is managed by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA). This second gambling region is reserved for tourists. It also doubles as the first-of-its-kind online gambling licensing jurisdiction. Other authorized bodies allowed to operate or give licenses to gambling operators, including Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO), and Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB), operate just like PAGCOR, only in different areas of jurisdiction. Confusing, isn’t it? Let’s take a closer look.
PAGCOR offers approved locations and online platforms for gambling activities like online bingo or sports betting in most parts of the Philippines. The players do these on betting terminals and in gaming outlets that are either state-owned or private and state-regulated. In PAGCOR-approved locations or sites, all game systems are tested for security. Thus, Filipinos can gamble freely, without risks of getting scammed or jailed.
On the other hand, the regulating bodies only allow all Cagayan Freeport casinos to offer services to foreigners or tourists. That said, locals aren’t welcome here, but if you own a foreign passport, you are free to enjoy all forms of gambling and betting levels in any of the casinos in the Freeport area.
Aurora and Bataan Freeports
Like in the Cagayan Freeport, both the Aurora Freeport and Bataan Freeport authorities allow all types of gambling activities, online or otherwise. However, they only offered license to independent operators provided that they only operate in the said area and only accept tourists as patrons.
In essence, Filipinos are not prohibited from online gambling by any laws. However, if you are an operator, that is an altogether different ballgame. Some rules apply to gambling operators, online or otherwise, and we listed them just for you.
Philippine Laws on Illegal Gambling
If you are interested to know, we compiled all the laws of the land related to gambling here, but do take note that they’re primarily for operators and not bettors.
Presidential Decree No.1067-A (1975)
PD No. 1067-A is the law that created the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). Under this law, President Ferdinand Marcos defined legal and illegal gambling and outlined PAGCOR’s powers, functions, and funding.
Presidential Decree No. 1602 (1978)
Following PAGCOR’s creation, the Philippine government created harsher penalties for illegal gambling activities or wagering without a proper license. This law listed all the legal gambling activities, along with the penalties for unlawful gambling and rewards for the informants.
Presidential Decree No. 1869 (1983)
PD 1869 details PAGCOR’s charter regarding the gambling industry’s regulation, authorization, and licensing.
Republic Act 7922 (1994)
The Republic Act 7922 established the Cagayan Cagayan Economic Zone and the city of Freeport. This also created the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), the regulating body for gambling operators in the Freeport area of Cagayan Valley and the compensation, supervision, auditing, and legal counsels related to CEZA.
Republic Act 9287 (2004)
The Senate and the House of Representatives enacted the Republic Act 9287 to increase the penalty for illegal numbers games and improve its implementing rules.
Executive Order No. 13 (2017)
Executive Order No. 13 clearly defines illegal gambling as any gambling activities or schemes “not authorized or licensed by the government agency duly empowered by law or its charter.” This law also covers gambling operations and services “physically located outside the territorial jurisdiction” of the authorities who issued the license to operate. Gambling services offered by independent operators to locals or people outside the jurisdiction of their registered licensing authority also count as “illegal gambling” and is, therefore, punishable by law.
Republic Act 10927 (2017)
This law enables the Philippine Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to implement specific risk management policies and allow compliance checks in all Philippine-based casinos. They carry out these checks in the event of suspected money laundering or terrorist financing cases. That said, the law requires that the casinos keep records for their players for at least five years. From the players side, they will need to disclose more detailed information before setting up an account and playing.
House Bill 8910
HB-8910 is a combination of two different laws, HB 4843 and HB 6983. The bills strengthened the Games and Amusement Boards (GAB) to regulate sabong and potentially legalize and standardize e-sabong. It doesn’t say anything about Filipino players’ legal sports betting sites, though.
What constitutes illegal gambling in the Philippines?
While online casino operators are restricted by law from offering services to Filipinos if they are Freeport-licensed, this restriction does not apply to the citizens.
A 2012 court ruling says that Filipino citizens are not subject to any laws that ban online gambling. This rule, however, does not apply to everyone. All government employees and their spouses can’t go in casinos. This is in accordance with the mandate of Malacañang Memorandum Circular No. 06 issued by the Office of the President.
Some may say that the laws seem unfair to operators. However, many gambling sites, be it land-based or otherwise, are generally heavily regulated in their market. Nevertheless, nothing bans citizens from online gambling, so feel free to play whenever and wherever you want.