ASIA POKER LAW INDEX

Philippines Poker Laws

philippinesGambling is very popular in the Philippines. Not only is most forms of gambling legal, the Philippine government has a big hand in it all, by way of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, which is a very big contributor of revenue to the Philippine government. (1)

The company has extensive gambling holdings including casinos, VIP slots clubs, and bingo halls, and employs over 11,000 people, to give you an idea of how big this state run gambling company is.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation isn’t a monopoly though, and other companies are able to offer land-based gambling in this country as well, it’s just that they are the biggest. There are 4 other companies that also offer land-based gambling here. (2)

So with the government playing such a big role in gambling, and making a lot of money off it, together with the market being open to other competitors, this is a great situation to be in if you live in the Philippines and like to gamble, and gambling does abound here.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation does serve as the regulatory body for gambling in the Philippines though, which is an unusual situation, having the biggest company in an industry regulate their smaller competitors, but the goal here is to promote gambling and the arrangement has worked quite well here.

There are a total of 57 casinos located throughout the Philippines, which is a huge amount compared to most countries. This does not even include all of the other gambling establishments that are located here. (3)

 

Live Poker in the Philippines

As far as playing live poker goes, there are plenty of live poker rooms in the country, a total of 22 in fact, with a total count of 105 poker tables. Some of these are located in casinos but many of them are dedicated poker rooms, showing that poker isn’t just a tag along to the casino games, barely worthy of mention, as is the case in a lot of places.

Live poker is popular enough here that PokerStars launched its second live poker room here in Manila, to go along with the one that they had previously opened up in Macau. It’s not a huge operation by any means, but does have 12 poker tables, and has done well since its launch, looking to further the interest of Filipinos toward the game of poker, something that has already grown to be pretty substantial. (4)

So while poker has been rather slow to catch on in a lot of Asian countries, it’s been rather quick to grow in a few others, and the Philippines is one of those countries that has really embraced the game.

The live poker tournament scene here is also quite vibrant, and they not only have a stop on the Asian Pacific Poker Tour and the Asian Poker Tour, they also have their own domestic tour, the Philippine Poker Tour. This lineup of tournaments and the publicity they generate also helps to further the game of poker in the country. (5)

 

Online Poker in the Philippines

There are no Philippine online poker sites, or online gambling sites either, as the government has not moved at all towards putting such a scheme in place, although this could change at some point in the near future, as a bill has recently been proposed here which may change that. (6)

There has been particular concern expressed over minors being able to freely gamble online, but these concerns are for the most part overblown, as the industry already does a good job of keeping minors away, so this more than anything may indicate that they haven’t looked into online gambling very deeply.

On the other hand, this may serve as an excuse to want to regulate, and governments often pay lip service to such things as this and controlling problem gambling to prop up their political platform when they are most interested in the bottom line, increasing tax revenues, as they don’t earn anything on foreign operated sites.

So there’s talk of severe fines for those operating outside the legislative framework if passed, for instance for allowing minors to play on their sites, but this again is just fist thumping as this would only apply to licensed operators and it can be assumed that they will comply with age restrictions, as even the foreign operators do that, although they aren’t subject to the laws of the Philippines in any case.

As for players, the reality is that there are many countries that wish to restrict access to foreign gambling websites, it’s just not something that is able to be done with much effectiveness.

So to get this to work here, this is a carrot and stick thing, but the stick is pretty small, so the carrot has to be quite large. It’s way to early to tell what this scheme would end up looking like, especially as far as how it would regulate online poker, but it’s far enough off that Filipino online poker players need not really be too concerned at this point.

Online Poker Options?

Currently, and curiously enough, it is illegal for a Philippine company to offer online gambling to Filipinos, but it is legal for Filipinos to play at foreign-based online gambling sites and online poker sites. The only “foreign-based sites” I would currently recommend are:

$100K Guarantee at PPI

It’s hard to say what happens here if we finally see regulation, as this may only permit domestic companies from competing against the foreign ones, which may not end up working that well as far as poker is concerned.

Poker is unique in that it requires quite a large-sized player base to make it work, although the Philippines do have the population base and poker is popular enough here to not really make that an issue.

However, the kicker is that whatever they come up with, it has to be competitive with the foreign based websites such as PokerStars, and that part isn’t going to happen with any domestic poker site.

So to make this work properly, they have to bring PokerStars on board, either as a stand alone site limited to Filipino players, or even better, to allow these players to play on the main site.

As time goes on, we’ll learn more about how this will all cash out here. The Cagayan Freeport, a region of the Philippines that makes their own gambling laws, is eager to license gambling companies, although they would not be able to offer play to Philippines residents, and this is something that’s in the early stages of development, but so far there’s nothing happening that would apply to Filipinos. (7)

So it’s game on here still for poker players and thanks to a recent ruling by the courts in the Philippines it’s perfectly legal for players to play wherever they want.

 

References:

1. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation

2. Gambling Companies of the Philippines

3. Philippines Casinos

4. Introducing Poker Stars LIVE Manila at the City of Dreams

5. Playing Poker in the Philippines

6. Philippines Discuss Internet Gambling Regulations

7. Online Gambling in the Philippines

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